Projectiles free play

Free play exploration with provided materials, with challenge to build devices that project themselves or a missile.
Science content
Physics: Motion and Forces, Newton’s Laws, Gravity (K, 2, 6)
Physics: Energy forms, Conservation of Energy (1, 3, 4, 5)
  • an open space where students can safely project small objects away from others e.g grass or gravel field
  • rubber bands, various sizes
  • paper clips
  • paper and card stock
  • masking tape
  • straws, drinking and bubble tea sizes
  • chopsticks
  • skewers
  • small binder clips
  • popsicle sticks
  • round toothpicks (they are stronger than the flat ones)
  • scissors
  • optional: balloons
  • optional: foil
  • optional:cardboard tubes: paper towel rolls, kleenex rolls

Show the materials to the students.

Tell them that they will build their own devices that can make itself fly, or shoot a small object made from the materials, in a safe manner.
Introduce the idea of elastic potential force - the energy stored in a stretched elastic band or balloon can be used to fire. When the elastic returns to its original shape, it loses energy, and the energy is transformed to motion energy of the projectile.

Support original ideas, constant modification, while guiding to make the design better.
Encourage device development if necessary by breaking down the components of the device: what will produce the power (e.g. elastic band, balloon), what will be the structural strength (e.g. chopstick, possible stick, straw), and projectile (e.g. balled up paper, toothpick).

There are an infinite number of possibilities as to what they can build.


Inspiration from "Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction" by John Austin, though often the designs in this book, being limited to office supplies, need to be modified as they are not so strong.

Grades taught
Gr 4
Gr 6