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Swinging Blocks

A traditional experiment physicists study is pendulums. It is a cool experiment for children to semi-replicate at home. This experiment promotes connections to every day life-playground time. So, our question for this activity is: Is it faster to swing by myself or with my friend? 

Use these simple materials to answer the question. 

  • shoelace
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • piece of paper
  • blocks with a hole for shoelace

Note: The shoelace can be substituted for any string-like material. The blocks can be substituted for anything that can be secured with string. Be creative, find things YOU have at home!

Once you have materials gathered, set up the pendulum. I used the kitchen cabinet knob, but you can create a swing other ways too. Make sure you leave enough shoelace or string to add more objects. You will be adding blocks, but you don’t want to change the length of the string

Bring the pendulum to a pre-determined height. Then, gently release the block, so it swings. I used the edge of the cabinet to make it easier. Measure how many swings it makes until it completely stops. I counted in my head but encourage your child to be creative on how they record the data.

Then, add another block and repeat the experiment.

Try it again with three blocks. Your child may start noticing the pattern!

Did your child notice that the number of blocks did not affect the pendulum? The swing will be affected by the length of the string and not the number of blocks. Wow. That’s crazy, right? Do the talk, the chillax science talk with your children. 

The Science Behind Swings

A pendulum is created when an object is suspended from a fixed point. They swing or move in an arch shape in what we call periods. These periods are affected by the length of the string and gravity. 

Nothing is better than the hands-on experience. However, we can use simulations to get the precision that sometimes we can’t get in the laboratory. Since we are at home, with many challenges, use the simulation to reinforce the concept. 

 

Here is my favorite online simulation. This picture is a section snapshot of the University of Colorado Boulder’s simulation. 

You can also find more information at Encyclopedia Britannica

As usual, here is are two book suggestions for your family. Click on the images to visit my affiliate Amazon store, at no additional cost to you. 

This book is great for the adolescent and high school students. The graphics are fantastic and the explanations too. 

 

This book is one of my favorite for children able to read on their own. Check it out!

Post a comment below and tell us how your family adapted this traditional physics experiment! 

Published by Reizelie Barreto, PhD

Reizelie is a former homeschool parent and a trained science and Montessori teacher with a passion for curriculum development. She loves learning and teaching and on her spare time she helps families create home environments that enrich a child's learning. Reizelie has a PhD in science education and has been working in the field of education for the last 19 years. She loves helping teachers, schools, and homeschooling families improve their science curriculum in ways that are authentic to scientists' work.

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