Forces and gravity

Is gravity real or does the Earth just suck?

Supports National Curriculum Key Stage 2, Units 1E, 2E, 4E and 6E (view Irish curriculum links)
Suitable for: Years 4, 5 and 6

The time for whole session is about 2 hours. This can be varied by taking shorter paths through the material. Choices may depend on the apparatus available or the particular needs of the class.

Outline of content
Aims to:

  • Establish what the children already know, using demos and class experiments
  • Provide the children with a clear idea of what a force is
  • Relate movement to forces
  • Explain that gravity and weight are forces
  • Establish that forces can be measured and teach them to estimate the size of forces
  • Represent forces with arrows
  • The forces are balanced on objects falling steadily
  • Teach that there is a force of gravity on the Moon but it is much smaller than on Earth
  • Teach that the planets orbit the Sun because of gravity
  • Excite the children’s interest

Points to note:
Please read the notes about safety and agree the assessment with the teacher before the session!

Cross references:

  • The slides in the PowerPoint presentation (1.5 MB) are referenced in the table.
  • As the presentation may be running throughout the session some simple slides provide a suitable background, alternatively switch to a black screen.
  • Apparatus details are linked to the relevant sections.
  • Notes about safety are included with the actitivties.
  • Vocabulary: The presentation uses expressions included in the KS1 and 2 strategies

Misconceptions to be corrected

  • There is no gravity in space
  • The Moon does not have a gravitational field
  • Heavy objects fall faster than light objects
  • All objects are ‘weightless’ in space

Feedback from the trials:
"I found that it was important to spend time on the very basic ideas of forces. They learned a lot from the games and these lead into discussions which I encouraged so that they could gain a clear understanding. Teachers, in each school, commented that their own understanding had been clarified".