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Sandra Tucker Crown Fine Arts Academy
2128 S. St. Louis
Chicago IL 60623
This lesson is designed for primary level students. They will observe angular
motion - precession.
Bicycle wheel - Put handles on the axle through the center. Fill the tire with
sand or if no tire, get a vacuum cleaner hose. Fill it with sand and
tape it to the rim. On one end of the handle attach a string.
Chair that rotates
A variety of tops
Plastic lids of various sizes
Hold up the bicycle tire by the handle and ask students to identify the item.
Then hold the tire by the string and ask the students what they observe. It
falls down. Next, hold the bicycle tire and have someone help to spin the tire.
Now hold it by the string and ask students to observe what happens. As the
bicycle wheel spins on its axis, it also rotates around the string. Students
should note that it is spinning two different ways. You can introduce the
vocabulary rotate or revolve.
Next, have a volunteer sit on the chair that rotates. Give them the bicycle
wheel to hold and get it spinning. Ask them to angle it to the right or to the
left. As the wheel angles to one direction or the other, the chair rotates in
the same direction.
Last, ask for a volunteer that is a very good runner. Tell them they need to
run straight ahead and then make a sharp turn. Have them practice. Then give
them the wheel to hold and spin it for them. As they run and turn, they need to
try to hold the wheel upright. They may want to try several times or ask for
another volunteer. They will soon see they can't hold it upright. Ask for the
student's observations and write them on the board.
Next, show them a gyroscope, and demonstrate some tops. Give the students time
to play with the bicycle wheel, gyroscope and tops. After they have finished,
ask for any observations they have made about tops and write them on the board.
Students are to use the cardboard, plastic lids, toothpicks, push pins and
skewers to make their own tops. They may decorate them. The tops work better
if the pins, toothpicks or skewers are glued to the disks with the glue gun. If
the top spins, the student was successful. Creativity in the shape of the disk
is a plus. For Kindergarten or 1st graders, the teacher should poke the hole in
the disk and help to attach the center post with the hot glue.
Disks can be also be used to show how colors mix or to demonstrate optical
175 Science Experiments, Brenda Walpole, Random House, NY, l988, p. 155.
Simple Science Experiments With Everyday Materials, Muriel Mandell, Sterling
Publishing Co., Inc. NY, 1990, pp. 40-41.