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STC–Kindergarten™: Exploring Forces and Motion

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Grade K. During Exploring Forces and Motion, students bring motion to a personal level as they consider their daily activities and the motions that accompany them. Students explore and describe motion, speed, and pushes and pulls. Using models, the class explores how pushes and pulls affect the speed and direction of an object’s motion. To conclude the unit, students apply what they learn to invent and play games as a class.

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Students see motion all around them, such as a ball rolling on a playground, cars and buses on the streets, and people walking. What makes a ball move from here to there? What makes objects go fast or slow? Students wonder about these and other questions related to forces and motion.

STC—Kindergarten™ Exploring Forces and Motion is a 7-lesson unit designed to allow students to investigate how forces—pushes and pulls—are responsible for the motion of objects. Students have the opportunity to model the application of forces to objects and to observe the results on the objects’ motions. While applying forces of different strengths and from different directions, they investigate what it takes to change the direction of motion of an object. In addition, they model the effect of forces on speed.

This unit also introduces students to the concept that forces are a part of their daily lives, from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed, and allows them to observe how these forces affect their lives and the objects around them.


  • Motion is a change in position.
  • Objects, humans, and other animals all experience motion.
  • There are many different types of motion.
  • Objects can move at different speeds. They can speed up, slow down, and stop.
  • Forces are pushes and pulls; they have both strength and direction.
  • Forces are needed to make objects move.
  • Changes in forces can result in changes in speed and direction of motion of an object.
  • Force is required to stop a moving object.


  • Recognizing that when objects move, they change position
  • Explaining motion and the forces acting on it using descriptive words
  • Understanding that forces are pushes and pulls
  • Recognizing that speed and direction of motion of an object are dependent on the forces that act on it
  • Recognizing numbers from 1 to 24
  • Measuring relative distance by using lengths of string
  • Creating and using models


  • Increasing awareness of forces and motion
  • Appreciating that forces are a part of our daily lives
  • Recognizing that forces affect motion, speed, and direction
  • Recognizing that we can exert forces to affect motion, speed, and direction

Lesson-by-lesson summary:
Lesson 1 concentrates on the students’ understanding of position. Where are they in relation to other students and landmarks in the classroom? Where are objects around the school located in relation to the school building and landmarks outside? They play a musical game and use descriptive words to explain their position when the music stops. In addition, they observe things that move around the school—how they move and how fast they move. Students bring motion to a personal level as they consider their daily activities and the motions that accompany them.

Describing motion is the focus of Lesson 2. Students explore using the Moving Objects Set that is part of the unit kit and describe the motion of these objects. They take turns acting out motions from the Action Word Cards for the class to guess and discuss. Timers allow the students to measure how long they can perform a particular action without getting tired. Viewing a video on the Smithsonian Exploring Forces and Motion DVD gives the students an opportunity to further describe and copy the motions they observe. The emphasis in this unit is on the students’ own actions, so they can understand that they, too, are in motion and exert forces.

How fast does it go? That is the question students explore in Lesson 3, and it adds one more dimension to their understanding of motion. Students observe objects in motion, classify them by speed, and recognize that speed can change. Timing students while they walk slowly and then quickly over the same distance gives students a definition of speed to which they can easily relate. Their knowledge of speed expands as they walk outside and observe objects in motion, expanding their vocabulary to describe the speed of objects they see. In a video, students observe several objects moving at different speeds. They begin thinking about the concept of speed changing, such as slowing down and speeding up. Finally, students use ramps and toy cars to cement the idea that objects move at different speeds and change speed.

In Lesson 4, students are introduced to the concept of force as a push or pull. They work cooperatively to make a variety of objects move and begin to recognize that it takes a push or a pull to make an object move. Students then go on to classify forces they use every day as pushes or pulls. Then, working with a lump of clay, students apply force in different strengths and from different directions and observe the result. They move to observing pushes and pulls with a model they construct in the classroom.

In Lesson 5, students model how changing the force exerted on an object can change its speed. The models they use to understand this concept are ramps resting on stacks of 1, 2, and 3 books. They predict and measure the effects of changing the height of the book stacks. They also push the cars with their hands on a flat surface to achieve different speeds. Once they understand the effect of force on speed, students explore how they can use forces to change the speed of and stop moving objects. Working cooperatively, students work to move a heavily laden container, discovering that by adding the force (pull/push) of more students, they can achieve the task. With this experiment, they can understand that differing amounts of forces are required to accomplish different tasks. An extension to Lesson 5 models Galileo’s famous experiment where they observe the amount of time it takes objects of different size and mass, dropped from the same height, to hit the ground.

Lesson 6 expands on the concept that forces have strength and direction. Students model the effect on an object when they exert different forces from different directions and equal or unequal forces from opposite directions. They explore how forces acting in a collision can change the motion of 1 or both toy cars. That investigation is extended by looking for ways to make a car change direction and continue moving in the new direction.

Lesson 7 serves as a post-unit assessment and ties together what students have learned throughout the unit. By using their newly learned vocabulary, students create and act out stories about forces and motion. They repeat an activity from Lesson 1 in which they observed motions in a walk outdoors. This time, however, they identify the forces associated with the motions and the changes in speed and direction of the objects. Students synthesize their new knowledge of forces and motion by inventing and displaying a new game and describing how it involves forces and motion.

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