Resources about forces (and motion)


This post is unfinished but I wanted to get at least some of the resources up on this blog.


We barely touched on magnetism in our classes but this is a good video from howstuffworks.


Newton’s Laws

This is my favourite video about Newton’s Laws. They are explained very clearly with simple 2D animation.

If you like learning through songs, here’s a song about Newton’s Laws by the Singing History Teachers on YouTube. (My musical son is not very impressed by the singing but he didn’t mind listening to it once.)

You can try the Khan academy videos and quizzes on Newton’s Laws here.

There are comprehensive lessons about Newton’s Laws on Physics Classroom, with some good animations, but these are only suitable for people who don’t mind a lot of reading.

Similarly, if your children don’t mind worksheets (which mine do, usually) you can download some here from

In our classes, we used the coin on a cup to demonstrate Newton’s First Law. The Exploratorium has a more impressive demonstration by whacking a stack of blocks.

More ideas about how to demonstrate Newton’s Third Law from Groovy Lab in a Box.

Get loads more hands-on ideas about teaching Forces and Motion from the teachjunkie website.


How do Aeroplanes fly? Video by Minute Physics

App: Simple Planes. Available on Steam for PC, smart phones and tablets. See video review here. The reviewer used the Steam version. There’s also Simple Rockets from the same developers.

Simple Machines


Download this infographic from Kids Discover.

Simple Machines app for iOS
 (link takes you to the CommonSenseMedia review).

Energy transfer

Another simple infographic from from, this time about potential energy vs kinetic energy .

I think building different marble runs is a great hands-on way to think about energy transfer. Also playing Mouse Trap or watching videos of machines that put the Americans in mind of Rube Goldberg and the Brits Heath Robinson. See I like the one with the glasses playing the ‘Pitagora Suitchi’ motif. (This covers sound as well as forces, motion and energy.)

One of my students took this self-paced four week course about amusement parks on Homeschool with Minecraft. It’s only 6.99 USD and the family definitely recommend it.


I left this until last because although it seems simple, understanding gravity can be quite confusing at times.

Here the Veritasium team go out and ask people what gravity is and how it works. Watch Minute Physics explain gravity in a little over a minute, or Bill Nye talk about it for a little over 22 minutes. Watch this video from NASA and/or watch Veritasium talk about whether there is gravity in space. You do need a tiny bit of mathematical knowledge to understand

If you or your child wants to understand more about gravity, you can watch this video from SciShow which contrasts the Newtonian understanding of gravity with the treatment given by Einstein. Then this video from How Stuff Works is pretty good in terms of visualising the curvature of space time depending on how massive an object is.

If you enjoy speculative fiction, there’s a series of short stories called Einstein’s Dreams which explore how life would be different if the physical rules of our universe were different.  Be aware that all these suggestions are way beyond the scope of our current primary science lessons, so don’t worry if you want to skip them.

Forces and Motion

We had two classes this term on Forces and Motion. These were fun classes, largely outdoors, and we went beyond what is expected in the NSW syllabus or the Australian Curriculum. The classes varied due to the different student groups, and the weather, but we all managed to think about:

Gravity . In one class this included a discussion about acceleration due to gravity being lower on the moon;

Inertia and Newton’s First Law of Motion (the children brought their skateboards and scooters to the playground and thought about how they needed to exert a force in order to start off motion).

Isaac Newton, painted by Godfrey Kneller

Newton’s Second Law of Motion (often expressed as F=ma where F is the force, m the mass and a the acceleration). In one class this worked well. We had a heavy child and a lighter child each on scooters and another child pushed them with roughly the same force each time. The heavier child travelled a shorter distance. Hooray! In the other class this didn’t work out so well and I was left trying to think of a better way to illustrate Newton’s Second Law.

Newton’s Third Law (Action and reaction). The demonstrations of this included using your foot to push off when you ride a scooter, balloon cars, and two toy cars crashing into each other so that they rebound. The balloon cars we used were commercial ones, but you can make some with Lego and everyday objects following the instructions here.

We looked at a BBC worksheet(pdf) about balanced and unbalanced forces, including the forces on a plane while in flight.


In one class the rain was tipping down outside and so we stayed in the sports hall to talk about magnetism and then I asked the children to demonstrate all three of Newton’s Laws using either a marble run or toy cars and a HotWheels track.

In the other class we were outside for some of the time and used playground equipment to demonstrate simple machines. Hauling a heavy bag up a slide is a good example of how an inclined plane can be used to lessen the force needed.