Outreach: gravity!

I’ve prepared an interactive lesson for middle schoolers (grades 6-8; ages 11-14) on gravity, one of the four fundamental forces of nature. The lesson teaches students that the gravity of black holes and the gravity that governs our Solar System is the same force, but the mass and compactness(/density) of the central object are what change the strength of the gravitational pull. We also discuss mass versus weight, the size of the Solar System scaled to a football field, and what would happen if the Sun were magically replaced by a black hole of the exact same mass. The material covered in this lesson is drawn heavily from this lesson from AstroEDU and meets a Michigan Department of Education Science Performance Expectation.

Objects of different masses and sizes bending the imaginary fabric of space with their gravitational pull.
Image credit: J. Provost/ScienceNews.org

In this lesson, the students alternate between listening to material being presented, filling in a worksheet, and trying out the concepts with hands-on demonstrations. I provide “the fabric of spacetime” (big embroidery hoops with stretchy fabric) and small balls of different sizes and masses for the students to work in small groups.

Middle school student worksheet to accompany the lesson and activity.

Please contact me if you are a teacher interested in having this lesson for your class!