Editor selections by Topic and Unit

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Physical Sciences K-8: Periodic and Simple Harmonic Motion Units

Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM). The motion that occurs when an object is accelerated towards a midpoint or equilibruim position. The size of the acceleration is dependent upon the distance of the object from the mid-point. Examples of this type of motion are sea waves, pendulums and springs. Units are not listed in a prescribed order.

  Simple Harmonic Motion (4)

Lesson Plans:

This lesson integrates a computer model to help kids visualize how energy is conserved in a simple pendulum (a child swinging on a swing). Students can drag the swing to different heights, then activate the motion. As the swing moves in periodic motion, energy bar graphs are shown in real-time.....letting students see the changing levels of kinetic and potential energy. Highly recommended by editors. Includes full lesson plan and printable student guide. Easily adaptable for high school.

Item Type: Simulation-Based Lesson
Level: Grades 6-9
Duration: One Class Period

This multimedia module was created by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and aligned to AAAS Benchmarks. It opens with Galileo's pendulum experiments, continues with interactive simulations of pendulum motion, and concludes with a hands-on lab.

Item Type: Instructional Module
Level: Grades 6-9
Duration: Two days


The amount of time it takes a pendulum to swing back and forth stays the same when you change its weight. But what if you took the pendulum to another planet? This animation lets students interactively explore pendulum length, the force of gravity, and rotation of the planet to see how they affect the motion of the pendulum.

Item Type: Interactive Animation
Level: Grades 3-8

Student Tutorials:

This robust, yet easy-to-use interactive model can be adapted for learners ranging from middle school through AP physics. You can change the string length, mass, and initial angle. Change the gravitational constant to see how the pendulum moves on different planets. View real-time bar graphs to see how energy is converted from kinetic-to-potential and back as the pendulum swings. Advanced learners can view graphs of angular acceleration/velocity.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 6-12

  Conservation of Energy and Forces on a Spring (4)

Lesson Plans:

An excellent lesson plan developed specifically to go with the PhET simulation Masses & Springs. It's a ready-to-use, inquiry-based activity for introducing frequency and period. Students will be using the tools in the simulation to help them solve a real-world question: Can you design a safe bungee jump? (Link to the simulation can be found in "Activities" below.)

Item Type: Lesson with Student Guide
Level: Grades 6-8
Duration: 1-2 Class Periods

This blended learning activity is highly recommended to help kids form deep understanding of the forces that act on a spring with mass attached. It combines a lab with a PhET simulation. Students identify the research question, make predictions, conduct a fair test, then compare their lab results to the simulation. With the sim, they can explore kinetic/potential energy transformation and "transport" their springs to different planets with varied gravitational constants. (Contains content support, student guides, & assessment/answer key.)

Item Type: Lesson Plan
Level: Grades 5-8
Duration: Two Class Periods


In this realistic virtual mass-and-spring laboratory, students explore spring motion by hanging weights of different masses on springs. Students can adjust the spring stiffness and damping. (Damping is a force, often friction, that reduces amplitude.) Real-time charts show changing kinetic, potential, and thermal energy levels as the springs oscillate. Can be adapted for a variety of levels and capabilities.

Item Type: Interactive Simulation
Level: Grades 7-12

This 4-minute video stars a boy who is concerned about spinning off into space, until he is introduced to a Foucault pendulum. The video does an excellent job of explaining how the motion of a pendulum demonstrates that the Earth is rotating on its axis. The pendulum is located at the Lexington, KY, public library, and is itself a thing of beauty.

Item Type: Video Clip
Level: Grades 3-6
Duration: 5 minutes