Sledding is a lot of fun and a wonderful time to sneak in a little science! Read on to learn how to teach your kids the Science of Sledding!
The Science of Sledding
Throughout my high school career, I wasn’t what one would call a Science Whiz. Most of 9th grade Earth Science was spent passing notes with my lab partner. My favorite (extra credit!) project in 10th grade Biology was when I sculpted lungs…out of spice cake! And 11th grade Chemistry? The only thing I remember from that class is a cute boy.
However, 12th grade Physics was amazing! I was fortunate to have had a very gifted teacher who, if he had wanted to, could have made trimming toenails seem like the most exciting thing on the planet. I learned stuff that year. A lot of stuff I never even knew I was interested in learning about, and declared physics my favorite class (even over Art and English, which is saying a lot!). With such fond memories of learning science, I couldn’t wait to introduce the boys to basic Physics concepts. Sledding, our favorite winter activity, seemed like a great place to begin!
Newton’s First Law of Motion
The Law of Inertia states that an object at rest, will stay at rest, until acted upon by an outside force.
Ask: What do you think will happen if no one pushes your sled?
Show: Refrain from pushing his sled for a moment. Demonstrate that unless an outside force (you) pushes it, it won’t go anywhere. Next, push his sled and watch him fly!
Likewise, The Law of Inertia also states that an object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force that causes a change in velocity.
Ask: Can you think of some reasons why your sled would stop moving?
Tell: Crashing into a tree will stop your sled. Thick, rough snow “off your path” adds friction and will cause your sled to slow down or stop. And yes, colliding with your brother will also cause you to stop moving!
Friction is defined as resistance to movement between two objects that are in contact with each other. There is typically less friction between smooth surfaces.
Ask: Do you think your sled would go faster on the ice, or the snow? Why?
Show: Let him test his theory (under supervision).
Gravity is the attraction between two objects that occupy space and have mass.
Tell: Gravity is the force that pulls us down and keeps our feet on the ground. Gravity pulls your sled down the hill!
Show: Toss a snowball up into the air. What happens? You’ll see gravity (and Newton’s Third Law of Motion) in action!
Teaching children science doesn’t have to be boring and straight from a text-book. My teacher from high school made physics fun because he showed his students how to apply it in simple, every day activities—like sledding. I can’t wait to teach my boys more about everyday science and then maybe, just maybe, I will be brave enough to dive into math.