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Akron Global Polymer Academy Professional Development Modules

Jungle Gym Drop

Grades: 5-8
Author: Beth Kennedy
View Student Lesson Plan


Module Description

As a result of this presenter-conducted module, participants will become familiar with using a "hands-on/ minds-on" active approach to the physical science standard of seeing the motion of a variety of falling spherical objects. Participants will also become familiar with how gravity, mass, and air resistance affect the falling motion of these objects.

Participants will design a lesson that will meet this National Standard in their classroom.



An outdoor jungle gym*

A variety of sturdy spherical objects

Meter tape measure

Stopwatches and rulers (one per group of three or pairs)

Science log books or journals for recording data

Several tubs filled with soft sand

Small tools for raking the landing sites between drops

Goggles for the participant who is raking the sand pile(s)

Participants should bring their curriculum guides for writing their lesson plans

Vinyl gutter (for extension)

*Indoor option: A step stool or sturdy chair/table to stand on



Review the meaning of a hypothesis as an educated guess based on previous experience. To get the participants ready to formulate a hypothesis, have them take a few minutes to think about what has happened to objects they have dropped in the past. Be sure to emphasize to participants that it is perfectly all right to make an incorrect hypothesis and that scientists do this all the time. Brainstorm a group hypothesis about what controls how objects will move when dropped. (Do not have a lengthy discussion about "gravity" at this point. The focus of this lesson at this point is the experimental process.)

Participants should know that the student lesson (Jungle Gym Drop Lesson Plan) includes going out to the playground, and that before doing this the teacher should pose some of the following questions for students to begin thinking about: What makes things fall when you drop them? Do heavy objects seem to fall faster, slower or the same speed as lighter objects? How does the distance dropped affect the fall and the landing? Would an elephant fall differently than a peanut? Have the participants ponder these questions as well.

Posed problem: Describe the motion of falling objects - how long does it take objects to hit the ground when dropped from the same height? Describe the crater made in soft sand when the object hits the ground - how wide and how deep is the crater?

Assessment: Monitor the group discussion.


Distribute one experiment report to each group of participants (pairs). Have group participants select three objects to be dropped that vary in size, shape and mass. Participants should then record their selected objects in the appropriate column of their table and make a hypothesis about the nature of the fall and the relative size of the crater they think will be produced. Participants may be made aware that there is a lesson plan for this available with a worksheet at (Jungle Gym Drop Lesson Plan). However, it is recommended that the teacher make up a worksheet that best fits their classroom goals and needs.

If weather permits and the participants are agreeable, take them out to the jungle-gym area where the presenter has prepared the landing areas with large piles of soft sand.

If this is not practical, then use the step stools/ tables and large tubs filled with sand to replicate dropping spheres and making craters as in the original student activity.

Take turns allowing the investigator in each group the opportunity to drop its objects one at a time.

Have the timer take the time of landing and measure the width and depth of the crater formed. Before the next drop happens the landing area will need to be smoothed out.

Assessment: Monitor the participants as they perform the tests and collect data. Be sure that they are on task and working safely. Monitor the discussion for signs of data analysis and links to force, motion, and gravity. Encourage these types of discussions without divulging the lesson content to them. Allow them to develop an understanding of this from their data, log entries and peer discussions.


After all groups have finished completing their experiment sheets, have the participants return to their seats and allow time to enter the group's data into their science logs, to analyze their findings, and to prepare their oral reports.

A spokesperson for each group reports the group's findings. The presenter should model assisting participants in seeing patterns in the data and help build their understanding of the science involved. Please see "Content Knowledge" for the relevant information.

Caution: All objects are supposed to fall at the same rate, yet our experience shows us that, when two different objects (a stone and a leaf, for example) are dropped at the same time one may hit the ground before the other. Make the participants aware of the influence of air on the object (air resistance). Demonstrate this by dropping two pieces of paper simultaneously - one paper has been wadded into a ball while the other is flat.

Return to the questions that opened the lesson - What makes things fall when you drop them? Do heavy objects seem to fall faster, slower or the same speed as lighter objects? How does the distance dropped affect the fall and the landing? Would an elephant fall differently than a peanut? After these have been discussed have participants summarize their understanding in their learning logs (journals).

Share several participants' logs for evidence of their understanding of gravity, force, and motion, and discuss how successful the participants were in their understanding of this together.

Lead the participants to discuss what best practices were observed in the lesson presentation; such as scientific inquiry, higher level questioning, and scientific literacy in the form of journal entries.

Assessment: Monitor that participants are using terms correctly and understand the basic concepts.


Pose a new problem for the participants. Ask them to predict the motion and impact on the ground of several objects used in the lesson if the motion is adjusted from a straight vertical drop to a slide down a gutter used like an inclined plane. Return to the playground/ step stools and conduct a demonstration using this new set up. Back in the classroom discuss the findings within the context of motion, forces and gravity.

Assessment: Show participants objects similar to, but not identical to, the objects used in this experiment. Have them predict the fall (time and motion) and the crater formed in the sand pile upon impact. Using their findings from the experiment they should be able to accurately justify their predictions. Ideally their writings should show understanding of gravity, motion, and forces.

Classroom Implementation:

Complete the lesson plan template for an inquiry lesson that addresses the physical science content standards (the properties of objects and materials, and the positions and motion of objects) at your grade level and addresses the best practices from this session for implementation in the classroom. (See teacher handout - lesson plan template)

On-going collaboration among the participants and presenter(s) should be encouraged.


In order for teachers to experience what they will be teaching, consider the following:

From the National Science Education Standards (NSES): Learning science is an active "hands-on/ minds-on" process that implies both physical and mental activity. This kind of learning must involve students in inquiry-oriented investigations in which they interact with their peers and teachers. They can then establish connections between their current knowledge and scientific knowledge found in many sources.

From the earliest grades, students must experience science in a form that actively engages them in the construction of ideas and explanations. Teaching science as inquiry provides the teacher with the opportunity to develop student abilities and to enrich their understanding of science. Science literacy is important as: 1) students today are frequently confronted with life questions that require scientific information and scientific ways of thinking in order to make informed decisions; and 2) it offers an understanding of science that delivers personal fulfillment and excitement to students.

Information on Inquiry can be found at: Best Teaching Practices - Inquiry Approaches

Science Standards

Content, Technology, and Professional Development:

NSES Standard B: Physical Science: As a result of the activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD A: Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. Science learning experiences for teachers must:

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD B: Professional development for teachers of science requires integrating knowledge of science, learning, pedagogy, and students; it also requires applying that knowledge to science teaching. Learning experiences for teachers of science must:

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD C: Professional Development for teachers of science requires building understanding and ability for lifelong learning.

Best Teaching Practices

Time Frame

Approx. 1 hour and 30 minutes


Gather a good supply of various sizes, sturdy, spherical objects to be dropped. Set up the playground jungle-gym landing areas with large piles of soft sand (or optional alternate in case of inclement weather/lack of jungle gym- fill as many large tubs with soft sand as would be beneficial for the size of your group). Set tubs on spread out newspapers or liners for easier clean up. It is suggested that more than one landing area is used so that more than one group may conduct their tests at a time. It is also suggested that a drop of at least 2 meters should be used. Releasing objects from a greater height makes the craters more easily measured.


Offer participants objects to drop that are sturdy with no possibility of shattering upon impact. The participant(s) raking the sand pile(s) should wear goggles.

If the participants opt to use the playground, exercise caution when climbing to the top of the jungle gym. Do not allow participants to stand too close to the falling objects or to the sand pile into which they drop.


Assessments are given after each part of the learning cycle in the procedures. If possible, the presenter should visit the classrooms of the participants when they are using the plans they developed at this professional development opportunity.

Explanation of Science

Content Knowledge

All objects are supposed to fall at the same rate, yet our experience shows us that, when two different objects (a stone and a leaf, for example) are dropped at the same time one may hit the ground before the other. It may be difficult for students to understand the influence of air on the object (air resistance). Discuss the demonstration of dropping two pieces of paper simultaneously - one paper has been wadded into a ball while the other is flat.


None Available for this Module.


Books to read/pair/share:

The Science of Gravity - Neil Ardley

Gravity is a Mystery - F. Branley

Math Extension:

Use a balance scale to find the mass of the objects each group dropped. Compare/contrast the weight of one pair's objects and the measurements of their craters to another pair's objects and the size of their craters. (Is there a pattern here?)

GEMS Unit - The Moon's of Jupiter ( gr. 4-8) at:

Website to view and explore:

Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Consider the following: seating so that everyone has access to the leaders' modeling, grouping with diversity in mind, making certain that everyone participates in the activity and journals their results.


None available for this module.


View Student Lesson Plan