Skills: Children will develop language skills and scientific knowledge while experimenting with a pendulum outdoors.
- A sturdy playground ball six to eight inches in diameter
- A length of clothesline
- A plastic grocery bag with handles
- A collection of cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, or lightweight blocks
In Advance: Look for places on your playground where you can set up a pendulum. Possibilities include a tree branch, basketball hoop, or a pull-up bar. Put the ball in the plastic bag and knot the handles. Tie the clothesline to the bag handles. Throw the other end of the clothesline over the bar and adjust the length until the ball is 30 to 36 inches off the ground. Tie off securely.
- Place your collection of boxes, tubes, or blocks close to the pendulum. Invite a few children to explore the materials. Initially, some children will be interested in how the pendulum moves and experiment by playing catch alone or with a partner. Other children will use the boxes for building.
- Observe to see if children think of using the pendulum to knock over their box buildings, then watch as they experiment with this. Children may build towers that are too low for the pendulum to hit or too far away for it to reach. As they watch the pendulum swing without knocking over the boxes, you might ask, "Why do you think the pendulum didn't hit the boxes?" Accept all ideas and encourage discussion among the children. If they don't think of any new ways to set it up, and they are still interested in the materials, you might ask, "Can you change your building so that the pendulum will hit it?" This will probably lead to further discussion and new ideas to try.
- As children experiment with the pendulum and talk about what's happening, they will be developing their understanding of the basic laws of physics.
For younger children: Hang the pendulum low to the ground so the children have an easier time reaching and pushing the ball. You might want to ask children to work in pairs to swing the pendulum.
For older children: Invite children to experiment by building block structures of varying shapes and strengths that can be knocked down by the pendulum. Ask why they think their structures toppled so easily. Why was one structure harder to topple than the other?
Observations: Do some children become engrossed in experimenting with objects and structures that the pendulum can knock down? Are some children fearful or timid when it comes to maneuvering the pendulum?
Explore places where children might observe simple machines and other objects that work in much the same way as a pendulum. Visit a construction site (or show children picture books) where trucks are demolishing buildings with pendulum-like equipment. Invite children to examine how a swinging motion acts like a pendulum. See if children can identify other objects in their environment that work on the same principle as a pendulum.
Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
Maisy Goes to the Playground by Lucy Cousins
Pete's a Pizza by William Steig