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Lesson Plans Library 9-12 > Physical Science
Elements of Physics: Motion, Force and Gravity
Elements of Physics: Motion, Force and Gravity
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Physical Science Duration: 3 class periods
 



lesson plan support
Student Objectives
  • Research issues related to human space travel.
  • Consider the necessity of space exploration.
  • Write a well-researched paper about continuing the space shuttle program.
Materials
  • Elements of Physics: Motion, Force, and Gravityvideo
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print and Web resources about the space program
Procedures
  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to write their opinions about the space program. They may consider whether the space program yields important scientific data or is a waste of money that poses a threat to astronauts. Have students put their papers away until the end of the lesson.
  2. Give students time in class to watch the programElements of Physics: Motion, Force, and Gravity. Have them pay close attention to the segment "From Space to Earth," which discusses the space shuttle program and the explosion of theChallengerspace shuttle.
  3. After watching the program, ask students to imagine serving on an advisory board to NASA. They have been asked to prepare a well-researched paper with their recommendations about continuing the space shuttle program. Questions students should consider while thinking about this issue include the following:
    • Why is reentry into Earth's atmosphere so difficult?(The space shuttle is in a fast, free fall state as it returns to Earth's atmosphere. The only force working on it is gravity; air resistance does not slow it down. Its intense speed is dangerous, especially when the shuttle first enters the atmosphere.)
    • Do we have the scientific expertise to safely launch space shuttles and return them to Earth?(NASA has done it many times, but space travel still poses risks.)
    • What changes have been made to the space shuttle program since the Challenger tragedy?(Additional checks and balances have been put into place, and launches are postponed if there is any doubt about the safety of the equipment or if the weather is questionable.)
    • Is human space exploration necessary? Can probes and other devices do the job just as well as people?(Opinions will vary.)
  4. Give students time in class to work on their papers. Have students use print and Web resources. The Web sites below are a good starting point:
  5. Have students choose a partner to review their finished papers; they will make revisions based on the feedback.
  6. Conclude the lesson by asking students to refer to their original opinions. Has working on this activity changed their opinions? If so, how? Hold a final class discussion focusing on students' thoughts about the future of the space program.

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Assessment
Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • 3 points: Students thoroughly researched issues related to human space travel; carefully considered the necessity of space exploration; and wrote a well-researched paper about continuing the space shuttle program.
  • 2 points: Students researched issues related to human space travel; considered the necessity of space exploration; and wrote a satisfactorily researched about continuing the space shuttle program.
  • 1 point: Students had difficulty or did not research issues related to humans space travel; had difficulty considering the necessity of space exploration; and did not complete or write a paper about continuing the space shuttle program.

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Vocabulary
air resistance
Definition:The upward force on an object in motion that has the effect of reducing the speed at which the object is moving
Context:As an object gains speed, it encounters more air resistance, which is what causes it to slow down.

atmosphere
Definition:The protective layer of gases that surrounds Earth
Context:Once the space shuttle enters Earth's atmosphere, it becomes subject to air resistance as well as gravity.

free fall
Definition:The state in which only gravity is acting on an object in motion
Context:During a free fall, an object accelerates because no other force is acting on it to counteract the effects of gravity.

gravity
Definition:The force that pulls objects downward
Context:In an unbalanced state, the force of gravity causes objects to accelerate at a rate of 9.8 meters per second.

space shuttle
Definition:A reusable vehicle designed to transport crew and equipment into space that can also serve as a base for repairing satellites and other objects in space
Context:Without the space shuttle, the International Space Station would not have the supplies and staff it needs to function.

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Academic Standards
National Academy of Sciences
The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K12. To view the standards, visit this Web site:http://books.nap.edu/html/nses/html/overview.html#content.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Physical Science: Motions and forces
  • Science and Technology: Abilities of technological design; Understandings about science and technology
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visithttp://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Science: Physical Sciences ? Understands forces and motion
  • Technology ? Understands the nature and uses of different forms of technology
  • Language Arts: Viewing ? Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media; Writing: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process, Gathers and uses information for research purposes; Reading: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

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