Explore Gravity with a Pom Pom Drop

By Megan Sheakoski

STEM
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Fall is the perfect time for kids to learn about gravity! Leaves, acorns, and pinecones begin to fall and provide great motivation for kids to experiment with gravity. Kids can use STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills to create and experiment with simple pom pom drops. Using simple materials you probably already have at home can help kids keep their edge and enhance their critical thinking skills.

While designing and testing their own pom pom drop, kids are working on the STEM concepts of design, shape, and structure in a fun and hands-on way. It’s an open-ended process that allows kids to test different designs and types of materials (in this case balls) and see how gravity effects each.

We took the STEM concepts being taught in the Sylvan EDGE classes and used them to experiment with FALL-ing and the concept of gravity. We got the chance to problem solve and learn about gravity and its effect on different types of balls while having fun.

Supplies needed:

  • Paper towel rolls
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Scissors
  • Washi tape
  • Pom poms
  • Other types of small balls, such as marbles or bouncy balls

Begin the gravity lesson by asking them to tape the paper towel rolls to the wall or window in such a way that a pom pom can roll through them. They’ll have to cut the rolls in half or cut openings in the tubes so the ball can travel through. There is no “right” way to do this at first. As kids test out their design, encourage them to continue to adjust and add to it to create a fun pom pom drop.

Next, ask them why the pom pom always ends up on the ground. Discuss the concept of gravity together and then put it to the test. Have kids test out different types of balls in their ball drop to see how different sizes, weights, and densities of materials change the effect gravity has. They will discover that heavier, denser objects fall faster.

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Extend the learning:

  • Give kids simple challenges and a timer to get them to use those critical thinking skills and modify their designs!
  • Build a pom pom drop that can keep a ball going for more than 10 seconds
  • Move the ball 4 feet to the left or right from where it begins
  • Test two different types of balls and see how you can get them to drop in the same number of seconds
  • Use scissors and tape to create shapes other than a cylinder for the balls to roll through

Designing and engineering their own pom pom drop lets kids really dive into the concept of gravity in a hands-on way. As they test and rebuild their structures they are developing the problem-solving skills they need to do well in school and in life.

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