In this hands on activity, students create a model of the affect of gravity on the orbiting planets in the solar system by swinging a rubber stopper on a string above their heads. The string represents the gravity, the attractive force that is keeping the planets in orbit. Students change the orbital radius (length of the string) to see how the orbital radius affects the orbital period and then calculate the orbital speed. After completing the activity, they compare their lab data to solar system data and evaluate their model.
MS-ESS1.2: Develop and use a model (physical, graphical, or conceptual) to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
Science & Engineering Practices: Modeling
- Evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool
- Develop or modify a model – based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.
- Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors
- Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.
Check out these other NGSS aligned resources:
Weight on Other Planets