Explaining forces to a 10 year old
February 11, 2014 1:32 AM Subscribe
My 10 year old daughter (Year 6, UK) was recently given homework to "explain how the following works": a) gravity; b) air resistance; c) magnetism; d) upthrust; e) friction.
My initial thought was that there is a Nobel prize in the offing if she can truly explain some of these, however, less flippantly, I struggled with how to do this in terms that a 10 year old would understand. Can anyone do any better?
posted by oclipa to Education (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Gravity I think I can handle: mass (or matter) attracts other mass; the more mass, the more gravity (so it is not so much the Earth attracting her, as both her and the Earth attracting each other).
Air resistance is air "particles" hitting the object moving through the air (imagine walking into a blizzard of ping-pong balls). A horizontal sheet of paper falling through the air will hit more air particles and so fall slowly; a vertical sheet of paper will hit less air particles and so fall faster.
Friction is imperfections in two surfaces catching on each other. I used velcro as an extreme example.
Upthrust starts to get a bit more hand-wavey since she hasn't really been taught the concept of density yet. An object placed in water pushes the water out of the way and the water wants to move back into the space occupied by the object. The force of the water trying to move back into the space pushes the object upwards ("why doesn't it push the object downwards" would seem to be the next question following this logic).
My explanation of magnetism doesn't get much further than: there are lots of very small magnetic particles that line up to make a large object magnetic, however this seems a bit like a "turtles all the way down" explanation.
Can anyone do any better?