Friday, August 29, 2014

Interactive Science Notebook - Physics Freebies, Part 1

Hunter kept an interactive science notebook last year, and I'm finally getting around to sharing it with you!  

It was the 4th year in our science cycle, and our focus was physics.  Our main text for the year, which I recommend to anyone teaching physics at an elementary level, was Level I Physics by Rebecca W. Keller Ph.D.  It is part of the Real-Science-4-Kids series, and you can also purchase the accompanying Teacher Manual and Laboratory Worksheets if you feel you need them.

Click on the photo to check it out on

For the actual notebook, we like to use the Pacon Artist Sketch Diary.  It's nice and large, with much sturdier pages than a regular notebook.  The best part is, they're nice and cheap!  Because they are so much larger than the composition notebooks commonly used in classrooms, the elements I design are usually larger too.  Most things will easily fit in a smaller book, though not necessarily in the same layout we use - you will probably have to put fewer elements on each page.  I also try to offer a smaller version of certain elements in the same download, so hopefully everyone can use them!

All of the vocabulary and definitions come from the book we used.  If the definitions don't suit you, simply have your student write under the flaps rather than gluing the provided definitions.  Vocabulary terms included in this flapbook are: physics, physical laws, force, energy, and work.

The first force we studied was gravitational force, and we supplemented the main text with these two books:


and this video:

Who doesn't love Bill Nye the Science Guy?

This notebook page shows that gravity pulls things towards the center of the earth from every direction.  In the frame, Hunter has written:

Gravity is a force of attraction between two objects.  Objects with greater mass have greater gravity.  Earth's gravity pulls things toward the center.  No matter where I stand on Earth, the center of the Earth is "down".

On this page, Hunter has shown that the Sun's gravity pulls on the Earth, and the Earth's gravity pulls on the moon. 

This basic sort reinforces the difference between mass and weight.  Often in elementary school these terms are used interchangeably, and while that's not always incorrect, I like to be clear that they are not the same thing.

This was a really fun activity.  Hunter completed this wheel, showing how much he weighs on Earth, and how much he would weigh on the moon, the sun, Jupiter, and Mars.  We talked about how his weight would change as the gravitational force changed, but his mass would remain constant.  We used this very cool free calculator from to find his weights on the different planets:

Click the pic to visit the calculator!

This is how we notebooked through our experiments!  I took pictures of each step and created custom frames for Hunter to record his hypothesis, methods, results, and conclusions.  We found this particular experiment in the back of Gravity Is a Mystery (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2).  It helps students discover for themselves that objects of different sizes and weights will hit the ground at the same time.  The shape of an object, however, can slow it down.

This page simply contains Hunter's conclusions from the experiment, and a staggered flap book called "Facts About Force".

The facts Hunter chose to include in his flapbook are as follows:

The Newton is the standard international unit of force.  Usually abbreviated as "N".

Forces occur in pairs and can be either balanced or unbalanced

Forces have a magnitude and a direction.
Example: 7N, South
Magnitude: 7 Newtons
Direction: South

(The download is set up so that it can be printed on two different colored papers, as shown above.)

This page has a lot going on!  In a smaller notebook, all of this won't fit on a single page.  Some elements may need to be glued into a smaller notebook the long way.

This flapbook comparing balanced forces, unbalanced forces, and net force includes cut-and-paste definitions to go under the flaps, if you choose to use them.

A rocket launch is the perfect example of unbalanced forces at work!  Hunter glued in the photo (which is included in the download below), then added two different colored arrows beside it showing the direction of the thrust, and the weight of the rocket being pulled in the opposite direction by gravity.  Underneath, he explains:

The thrust of the engines is greater than the weight of the rocket.  The unbalanced force shoots the rocket up.

Just a little rocket math here!  The first problem is simplified for elementary students and asks the student to find the net force behind a hypothetical rocket launch.  The second is tougher, but even a younger kid can do it with guidance and a calculator.  The main lesson for Hunter was how to plug two known values into the equation (Force = mass x acceleration, or F = ma) to find the unknown value.  We worked it out, step by step, with Hunter recording each step as we went along.

This page has eight simple problems for calculating net force.  The green arrows show force being applied to the box from each side, with the magnitude of each force noted (all numbers are between 0 and 20 to keep things simple for young kids).  Explain to the student that when the two forces are going in the same direction, you add the numbers together.  When the arrows point in opposite directions, you subtract the smaller number from the larger. 

In the close-up, you can see the forces in this example are equal and opposite.  The net force is therefore 0, and the forces are balanced.

I have a lot more to share from our Interactive Physics Notebook; I hope to have the rest of it up very soon!  Consider following us on Facebook or Bloglovin - there are freebies galore planned for the new school year!

*Interactive Science Notebook - Physics Freebies, Part 2 is now up!  Check it out!

For lots and lots of Interactive Science Notebook ideas and freebies, try our Pinterest board:

Or, for more free or DIY physics resources, this board: