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Original Physics Experiments

School: Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences

City/State: Santa Fe, NM

Grade(s): 1, 2

Format(s): Report: Science

Subject(s): Mathematics, Science and Technology

Project Overview

This book of experiments shows the work of 1st and 2nd graders from the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences, in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was part of a learning expedition on physics and forces. Included here are a few sample student experiments from a larger collection that included all students in the classroom.

Each student designed and executed an original physics experiment based on something a question he or she had about why things move the way the do. After deciding upon a question, each student came up with his or her own hypothesis, designed an experiment to test his or her hypothesis, collected and analyzed his or her data, and then drew conclusions.

Students learned first hand about the scientific method and means for designing good experiments, including the need for controlling variables, executing a number of trials, and other issues that impact the validity of one’s study.

Students demonstrated important scientific values in reporting the results of their experiment – if their hypothesis didn’t pan out, they didn’t try to fudge the data or make excuses – they acknowledged that their experiment data didn’t suggest that their hypothesis was valid.

This book is a collection of students’ experiments and their conclusions. Each student’s entry starts with a statement about “what made me wonder what I wondered” as a way of not just stating the questions but why each student had that question. Entries also include the hypothesis, the materials used, the procedures used, data collected and conclusions.

Alicia’s experiment was about whether smaller things spin longer than larger ones. She used a penny and a quarter to test her hypothesis. See procedures on page 4. She concluded that they both spun about the same amount of time. But, ultimately she believed that the amount of force she gave each spin – and because she could not regulate this – was the most direct explanation of how long each coin spun: a variable she had not considered when planning her experiment. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Exemplifies young students engaged in authentic research on topics that mattered to them – they chose questions to explore that interested them.
  • Shows how scientific inquiry can be built on “wonder”.
  • Students engaged in genuine scientific inquiry and thinking – at a very young age; these students are considering issues of control and variables, of validity, and not just making assumptions.
  • Highlights student perseverance and sticking with a question. Notice the complicated steps that John goes through in his experiment. His first trial is inhibited by the design of his ramp – see how many times his data says, “fell off.” He redesigned the ramp and was then able to collect useful data.
  • Product format is very simple and yet is intriguing to read.

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can describe how two people, events, and/or ideas are connected in informational texts.
  • I can describe the connection between events, ideas or concepts in an informational text.
  • I can include an ending to my informational text.
  • I can include an ending for my story.
  • I can participate in shared research projects.
  • With support from adults, I can answer questions about things I’ve done or learned about.
  • I can construct a closure on the topic of an informative/explanatory text.
  • I can close my story.
  • I can participate in shared research projects.
  • I can answer questions about things I’ve done or learned about.
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