This 5E Explore activity has students work with a PhET simulation Gravity Force Lab
Students can collect observations about how changes in the mass of two objects or changes in the distance between two objects affects the strength of the gravitational forces between the objects.
Explore Gravity Force Lab
The PhET is HTML5 so it should work on all browsers. I have used it on Chromebooks and PCs with my own students.
In this explore students are given the opportunity to explore the PhET virtual lab to collect evidence to support or reject the following claim “Gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of the interacting objects.”
I project the simulation onto the board and review the parts of the simulation. I allow students a few minutes to explore the simulation and check that they correctly answered the background questions before they move on to the rest of the exploration.
For the majority of the lab I use a coaching approach with my students to encourage them to problem solve and make connections between the simulation and the claim they are testing.
Examples of Coaching Questions for this Explore
•What does each part of the model represent? (arrows, sphere)
•What is the best way to document your observations?
•What evidence from the simulation would support that claim?
•Why might you reject that claim?
In this simulation, the forces are very small and you will need to decide if your students will be expected to record the results in scientific notation or not. I my experience only my honors students are proficient in using scientific notation at the time of the year that I usually assign this lab so I do not require students to use scientific notation.
I also found that different computer screens have different resolutions so you might see a difference in the student numerical answers, however for this lab, the general trend of increasing or decreasing gravitational force as the masses and distances are changed is all that is required to meet the performance expectation.
I have included a 4 question assessment (page four of the PDF handouts) I use at the end of the lab to evaluate student understanding of the topic and to have them construct and argument to support or reject the following claim “Gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of the interacting objects.”
Zipped Folder with PDFs
Note this is ALSO AVAILABLE AS A GOOGLE VERSION
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