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published by the Physics Education Technology Project
content provider: the UTeach - University of Texas
This lesson plan was crafted by PhET teacher-fellows specifically to accompany the simulation Projectile Motion. It is quite comprehensive, providing both teacher and learner with appropriate support to learn about projectile motion with or without air resistance. It contains scripted teacher discussion, background information, explanations of fluid properties of air and coefficient of drag, common misconceptions, and modifiable worksheets.

See Related Materials for a link to the Projectile Motion simulation, which must be running to complete this activity.
Editor's Note: Allow two class periods. Appropriate for Grades 8-9, but may be easily adapted to a course in Physics First or Conceptual Physics.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= Projectile Motion
- Newton's Second Law
= Force, Acceleration
- Newton's Third Law
= Action/Reaction
Fluid Mechanics
- Statics of Fluids
= Atmospheric Pressure
Other Sciences
- Mathematics
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Interactive Simulation
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2012 PHET; University of Colorado
Additional information is available.
2d motion, acceleration, ballistic motion, drag, drag coefficient, gravity, interactive multimedia, kinematics, projectile motion
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created September 13, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 13, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
June 22, 2012

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

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/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.
  • 9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.
  • 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/M2. Rates of change can be computed from differences in magnitudes and vice versa.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (MS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Apply Newton's Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects. (MS-PS2-1)
  • Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. (MS-PS2-2)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • For any pair of interacting objects, the force exerted by the first object on the second object is equal in strength to the force that the second object exerts on the first, but in the opposite direction (Newton's third law). (6-8)
  • 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)

Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions. (6-8)
    • Conduct an investigation to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of an investigation. (6-8)
Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence (K-12)
  • Science knowledge is based upon logical connections between evidence and explanations. (6-8)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

Expressions and Equations (6-8)

Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between dependent and independent variables. (6)
  • 6.EE.9 Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.

Functions (8)

Define, evaluate, and compare functions. (8)
  • 8.F.2 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).

Common Core State Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6—12

Text Types and Purposes (6-12)
  • 1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (WHST.6-8.1)
Production and Distribution of Writing (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: Motion in More Than One Dimension

An excellent two-day lesson to accompany the PhET simulation Projectile Motion (see Activities below). It was crafted by educators to provide robust support to both teachers and learners on projectile motion with and without air resistance. You will find scripted teacher discussion, explanations of fluid properties of air, and modifiable worksheets. Created for middle school, but can be easily adapted to Physics First or Physics Prep courses.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2012), WWW Document, (http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542).
PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson (Physics Education Technology Project, Boulder, 2012), <http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542>.
APA Format
PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson. (2012, June 22). Retrieved July 25, 2014, from Physics Education Technology Project: http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542
Chicago Format
UTeach - University of Texas. PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, June 22, 2012. http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542 (accessed 25 July 2014).
MLA Format
PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, 2012. 22 June 2012. UTeach - University of Texas. 25 July 2014 <http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson}, Publisher = {Physics Education Technology Project}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {25 July 2014}, Month = {June 22, 2012}, Year = {2012} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson
%D June 22, 2012
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%C Boulder
%U http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D June 22, 2012
%T PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson
%I Physics Education Technology Project
%V 2014
%N 25 July 2014
%8 June 22, 2012
%9 application/pdf
%U http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3542

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PhET Teacher Activities: Air Resistance Lesson:

Accompanies PhET Simulation: Projectile Motion

A link to the PhET simulation Projectile Motion, which must be running in order to complete this lesson. Requires Flash.

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