Playground Physics

I went to the playground today with my son, and realized that the equipment at a playground could be really useful as apparatus for scientific experiments. Here are a few demonstrations of scientific principles:

How would you turn these demonstrations into experiments? What kind of data would you collect? What are some other examples of playground physics?

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9 Comments

  • Daphney McFadden wrote:

    Hi Mr. Wees!! It’s Daphney McFadden again. The EDM310 student in Mobile, AL. I just want to start off by saying that I think that you have one of the most creative and brilliant minds in education today!! I don’t think I would have ever thought about using playground equipment for a physics lesson. That is awesome. Not to mention, you that you were about to spend some quality time with your son as well. I would love to be like yourself when I get into the classroom. Inventing new ideas and ways to deliver a lesson. So cool!!

  • David Wees wrote:

    Thank you, Daphne. I left a comment for you on your blog.

  • Amy Gruen wrote:

    I like using the merry-go-round for conservation of angular momentum and moment of inertia. You can measure the speed of rotation as the students are on the edge, and then as they quickly move to the center.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Terrific idea. Certainly a merry-go-round is an excellent piece of playground equipment for demonstrating principles of physics. Unfortunately the park I was at with my son didnt have one! Do you have any other ideas of ways to incorporate physics ideas into a playground?

  • Megan Miller-Morgan wrote:

    I am so glad I found your site!  I am trying to find simple activities for an after school program with 1st-6th graders, that involves getting out on the playground and looking at basic physics concepts.  I have considered having them draw (design) a piece of playground equipment based on what they learn and what they like and experience as a user…maybe even build a model.  I am still thinking through this, so any thoughts would be appreciated!

     

  • David Wees wrote:

    I like the idea of building a model. The important part, in order to make this a scientific activity, is that the students make observations about what they notice, and then try and make predictions about what they notice. At that age group, I might just have them use I notice and then I wonder as a simple framework for asking questions. Let them notice anything about the playground equipment, perhaps while 2-3 of them are using it, and then ask questions about it. Perhaps the older kids then record these noticing and wonderings about the playground equipment for later, and then bring them out again to discuss when they build their models?

  • I love that. When scientists/teachers use “today’s” life objects or places to educate. It’s so much more playful. Science teaching should be more fun.

  • Tom Smith wrote:

    I was dreaming of a physics based playground that I could take students out from the high school and elementary kids could play at when its not being used. The high school and elementary in my district are in close proximity. I had just began to try and come up with some ideas when I came across this site. I would love to talk to you at some point and share some ideas that I have and get some feedback.

  • David Wees wrote:

    That sounds really cool! I haven’t done much more thinking than this initial post though, so I wonder if there are any organizations (maybe there’s a physics department at a local university?) that could partner with you on this?

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