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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
This is a three-day multimedia lesson plan for grades 6-9 on Galileo's experiments involving inertia and gravity.  It includes short, easily embedded videos relating to Galileo's pendulum and inclined plane experiments, plus an interactive simulation for student exploration.  Also included is a lesson plan with printable instructions on constructing a pendulum in the classroom.  This module is designed to give beginning students a conceptual framework to understand Newton's Laws when they progress to a physics course.  
PBS Learning Media hosts a collection of more than 10,000 free educational resources compiled by researchers and experienced teachers to promote the use of digital resources in the classroom.

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Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Gravity
= Universal Gravitation
- Newton's First Law
= Inertia in Motion
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Simulation
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2004 http://www.wisc-online.com/copyright.asp
Galileo's experiments, Law of Inertia, Newton's First Law, gravitational acceleration, gravity, inertia, pendulum experiment
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 1, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
March 11, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 17, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1A. The Scientific Worldview
  • 6-8: 1A/M2. Scientific knowledge is subject to modification as new information challenges prevailing theories and as a new theory leads to looking at old observations in a new way.

4. The Physical Setting

4B. The Earth
  • 6-8: 4B/M3. Everything on or anywhere near the earth is pulled toward the earth's center by gravitational force.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 9-12: 4F/H2. All motion is relative to whatever frame of reference is chosen, for there is no motionless frame from which to judge all motion.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 9-12: 4G/H1. Gravitational force is an attraction between masses. The strength of the force is proportional to the masses and weakens rapidly with increasing distance between them.

10. Historical Perspectives

10A. Displacing the Earth from the Center of the Universe
  • 9-12: 10A/H5. Using the newly invented telescope to study the sky, Galileo made many discoveries that supported the ideas of Copernicus. It was Galileo who found the moons of Jupiter, sunspots, craters and mountains on the moon, and many more stars than were visible to the unaided eye.
  • 9-12: 10A/H6. Writing in Italian rather than in Latin (the language of scholars at the time), Galileo presented arguments for and against the two main views of the universe in a way that favored the newer view. His descriptions of how things move provided an explanation for why people might notice the motion of the earth. Galileo's writings made educated people of the time aware of these competing views and created political, religious, and scientific controversy.
  • 9-12: 10A/H8. The work of Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, and Kepler eventually changed people's perception of their place in the universe.

12. Habits of Mind

12A. Values and Attitudes
  • 9-12: 12A/H3. In science, a new theory rarely gains widespread acceptance until its advocates can show that it is borne out by the evidence, is logically consistent with other principles that are not in question, explains more than its rival theories, and has the potential to lead to new knowledge.

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (MS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. (MS-PS2-2)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • All positions of objects and the directions of forces and motions must be described in an arbitrarily chosen reference frame and arbitrarily chosen units of size. In order to share information with other people, these choices must also be shared. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
  • Science assumes that objects and events in natural systems occur in consistent patterns that are understandable through measurement and observation. (6-8)
  • Scientific knowledge is based on the assumption that natural laws operate today as they did in the past and they will continue to do so in the future. (9-12)

Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to identify linear and nonlinear relationships. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (6-8)
    • Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events. (6-8)
    • Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that describe phenomena. (6-8)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions. (6-8)
    • Conduct an investigation to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of an investigation. (6-8)
Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence (K-12)
  • Science knowledge is based upon logical connections between evidence and explanations. (6-8)

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Newton's First Law & Inertia

Galileo's classic experiments on gravity and inertia are presented in an entertaining multimedia format.  Includes full standards-based lesson plan, four short videos, an interactive simulation, and printable instructions for a classroom pendulum experiment.  Excellent resource to pave the way for future understanding of Newton's Laws.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2004), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/).
PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2004), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker. (2008, March 17). Retrieved July 28, 2014, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 17, 2008. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/ (accessed 28 July 2014).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2004. 17 Mar. 2008. 28 July 2014 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {28 July 2014}, Month = {March 17, 2008}, Year = {2004} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker
%D March 17, 2008
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/
%O application/shockwave

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D March 17, 2008
%T PBS Learning Media: Galileo-A Different Thinker
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2014
%N 28 July 2014
%8 March 17, 2008
%9 application/shockwave
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.lp_galileo/galileo-a-different-thinker/

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