The Pendulum Project - Teacher Guide

See Also: Pendulum Project Student Handout

Overview: Students will use the scientific method to solve a problem. They have the freedom to design, conduct, and gather their data and draw their own conclusions.

Tips and Strategies

1. Show a pendulum to the students (simply a weight attached to a string). Swing the pendulum.

Ask students which will swing more, one that is held in your hand or one that is attached to a table with tape. Ask students to consider why an experiment would be better if the pendulum was attached.

2. Ask students the experiment question:

Does the number of times the pendulum swing depend on the weight attached to it, or the length of the string?

There is actually a correct answer to this problem. Weight will have no affect on the number of swings. The longer the string is, the slower it will swing and it will have a fewer number of swings in the designated time period. It is up to your students to figure this out using careful data collection and the scientific method.

3. Students then work in pairs to develop a way to answer the question. You may need to remind them of controls and variables. That they should test one variable (length or weight) while leaving the other variable constant.

Students usually get stuck separating the variables. For instance, they may say "the longer and heavier the pendulum is, the faster it will swing". This is a good time to be circulating among the groups and reminding them that each variable should be tested separately and that it is okay to make two separate and different hypotheses as long as you test them both.

4. Students test their hypothesis to answer the question.

Students may need guidance on testing. You may want to set a number of tests ( test three different lengths and three different weights). How much guidance they need probably depends on the class and the kids.

5. Students organize data onto tables

Data will probably start out as rough numbers and jotted down information, remind students that their final report should include a clean, organized version of their data. You may want to give them additional guidance on how to set up their data tables.

6. Students write a lab report.

This is done mainly on their own and requirements can vary by teacher (typed, length, group report, etc)

See Also: Student Guide to Pendulum Lab for a handout to give to the students Teacher's Guide to this Activity

  Needs Work (1) Satisfactory (2) Excellent (3)
Introduction & Hypothesis Experiment objective is not clear, hypothesis would be difficult to test; reader does not get a clear sense of what will happen in the experiment Hypothesis is a testable statement, with a clear goal. Variables are included, or a statement that explains what tests will be conducted. Clearly written as an if..then statement that can be tested in an experiment. Variables clearly stated and are separated with respect to the prediction.
Procedure Procedure is lacking details, could not easily be repeated, missing sketches Explanation of procedure is included; unclear at parts or missing sketch Clear explanation shows how data was collected, including a sketch of the lab set-up.
Data Tables Data is minimal, disorganized, trends not evident, looks like a rough draft Data is included, but parts may be difficult to read. Trends are not obvious. Some labels may be unclear. Organized, each column or row is labeled, any reader can clearly see the trends in the data. Graphs
Conclusions Concluding statements unclear or off topic. Data is not used to support statement or conclusions do not follow data. Data is used to state an outcome of the experiment, supporting statements (data) unclear or missing elements, conclusion only partly follows data The data is used to clearly state the outcome of the experiment; the hypothesis is either supported or rejected, conclusion follows data.
Data Gathering ( experiment) Student did not remain on task, did not clean up or return equipment, very little data was collected. Student was on task most of the time, some data was collected, work space was cleaned and equipment was returned Enough data was collected to draw conclusions, student remained on task, work space was cleaned and equipment was returned