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content provider: the Nuffield Curriculum Centre
written by the Nuffield Curriculum Centre
This is a set of six introductory experiments on the Law of Inertia, developed for use in high school science classrooms.  Each experiment focuses on practical applications of Newton's First Law, and is supplemented with full instructional guidelines, drawings/photos, and tips for teachers.  Especially noteworthy are the links to lab safety guidelines written specifically for each lab experiment.  Background information accompanies each experiment, as well.  

This resource is part of a much larger collection of physics/astronomy experiments, sponsored by the UK's Institute of Physics and funded by the Nuffield Curriculum Centre.  
SEE RELATED ITEMS BELOW for a link to the full collection.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Newton's First Law
General Physics
- Curriculum
- High School
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Curriculum
= Demonstration
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Unit of Instruction
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   May be dangerous  

Intended Users:
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2004 The Nuffield Foundation
Additional information is available.
Law of Inertia, activities, balancing forces, curriculum, experiment, forces, hands-on, inertia, pendulum, practical physics
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 1, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
March 11, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 20, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 9-12: 1B/H4. There are different traditions in science about what is investigated and how, but they all share a commitment to the use of logical arguments based on empirical evidence.

2. The Nature of Mathematics

2B. Mathematics, Science, and Technology
  • 9-12: 2B/H3. Mathematics provides a precise language to describe objects and events and the relationships among them. In addition, mathematics provides tools for solving problems, analyzing data, and making logical arguments.

4. The Physical Setting

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/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

9. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 6-8: 9B/M3. Graphs can show a variety of possible relationships between two variables. As one variable increases uniformly, the other may do one of the following: increase or decrease steadily, increase or decrease faster and faster, get closer and closer to some limiting value, reach some intermediate maximum or minimum, alternately increase and decrease, increase or decrease in steps, or do something different from any of these.
  • 9-12: 9B/H4. Tables, graphs, and symbols are alternative ways of representing data and relationships that can be translated from one to another.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M5. Analyze simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate what the effect of making a change in one part of a device would have on the device as a whole.

Next Generation Science Standards

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)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Stability and Change (2-12)
  • Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable. (9-12)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
  • Science assumes the universe is a vast single system in which basic laws are consistent. (9-12)
  • 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 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
    • Construct an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students' own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. (9-12)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models. (9-12)
    • Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. (9-12)
Scientific Investigations Use a Variety of Methods (K-12)
  • Science investigations use diverse methods and do not always use the same set of procedures to obtain data. (9-12)
Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence (K-12)
  • Science knowledge is based on empirical evidence. (9-12)
  • Science disciplines share common rules of evidence used to evaluate explanations about natural systems. (9-12)
Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena (2-12)
  • Theories and laws provide explanations in science. (9-12)
  • A scientific theory is a substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment and the science community validates each theory before it is accepted. If new evidence is discovered that the theory does not accommodate, the theory is generally modified in light of this new evidence. (9-12)

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

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

A set of seven experiments on the Law of Inertia, developed by a team of scientists and educators in the UK.  Each experiment has been classroom-tested and focuses on practical applications of the concepts to be presented.  Contains full instructions for set-up, safety information, and tips for teachers.

Link to Unit:
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre, (2004), WWW Document, (http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law).
Nuffield Curriculum Centre, Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law (2004), <http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law>.
APA Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. (2008, October 20). Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law
Chicago Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law. October 20, 2008. http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law (accessed 24 July 2014).
MLA Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law. 2004. 20 Oct. 2008. Nuffield Curriculum Centre. 24 July 2014 <http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Nuffield Curriculum Centre", Title = {Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {24 July 2014}, Month = {October 20, 2008}, Year = {2004} }
Refer Export Format

%Q Nuffield Curriculum Centre
%T Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law
%D October 20, 2008
%U http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Nuffield Curriculum Centre,
%D October 20, 2008
%T Practical Physics: Inertia and Newton's First Law
%V 2014
%N 24 July 2014
%8 October 20, 2008
%9 text/html
%U http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/inertia-and-newtons-first-law

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