Universal Gravitation

Thomas Cork
Queens High School for the Sciences

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers
August 2008

Note: This page is an ancillary to the student-centered activity that follows, which was designed by Thomas Cork for use in a one-semester astronomy class in which some students have not had physics.

 Items needed: Paper, paper clips.  (I have noticed that toilet tissue works best.)

 Group structure:  Each group of four is to name one person per table to each of the following four roles: 

  •  Manager: Responsible for overall group function, as well as time management.  This activity will be finished in multiple periods, and the manager is responsible for making sure the day’s work gets done.

  •  Recorder: Writes down the answers to the questions.  All group members must have the answers written down, but only the recorder’s sheet will be turned in at the end of the class.

  • Presenter:  Reads out and explains the group’s answers when called upon by the teacher.  The presenter may also be responsible for defending his/her group’s answers.

  • Clarifier:  Ensures that the group is in agreement after an answer has been achieved for a question.  The clarifier is responsible for even pacing, so that each student is ‘on the same page.’

Motivation:  As a class, the students will put together a Know/Want to Know/Learned (KWL) chart for gravity (as a concept).  I will drop a few objects to the ground—the heavier the better, and say, “What is gravity?!?” 

I will then introduce the activity.

Updates and Closure:  I will walk around to see how the students understand the concept.  At specific intervals, I will stop the class to see where the students are as a group. 

We may have discussions about common misconceptions, should they occur.  At the end of the class, we will fill in the right side of the KWL chart.  We will begin with the chart on the following day.


 NYS Science Standards

S1.1:    Elaborate on basic scientific and personal explanations of natural phenomena, and develop extended visual models and mathematical formulations to represent thinking.

S2.2:    Devise ways of making observations to test proposed explanations.


Student-centered activity