Currently On Display

Roll, Drop, Bounce
September 22 – December 30

Discover the “phun” side of physics! Explore Newton’s Laws of Motion, kinetic and potential energy and other physics phenomena with this engaging, hands-on exhibit. In this active learning laboratory you can design and build a mini-car, race balls down our racing ramps, shoot the loop-the-loop, launch a catapult and much more! 

Concepts: Newton’s Laws of Motion, physics, potential and kinetic energy, critical and logical thinking.

Clay Center Challenge
Try one or more of the following activities during your visit to the Roll, Drop, Bounce exhibit. This exhibit has many activities that will work for a variety of ages and grade levels.  Enjoy!
Grades PreK – 2
Explore the Newton’s Cradle with your students.  What happens when you pull one ball back and allow it to strike the remaining balls?  What happens when you try two?  Three?  Compare the billiard ball activity to the tennis ball activity at this exhibit.  Which is noisier?  Which packs more of a “punch” when the balls collide?  Ask students why the tennis balls don’t get as much of a reaction as the billiard balls.
Explore the Bounce exhibit with your students.  Have students compare the bouncing height of a few of the selected balls in the bin.  Older students may be capable of reporting actual measurements, but for younger students, you can have them use their hands to show the height to which the balls bounce.  Which balls are good bouncers?  Which don’t go as high?  Why might this be?  This has to do with a variety of factors including internal friction, size, weight, etc.  Without getting too complicated, students will be able to observe many of these differences just by using their powers of observation.
Check out the tubes and chutes exhibit in the back of the gallery.  Allow students to explore building and constructing series of ramps and chutes to see if they can get a ball to roll all the way to the bottom.  What worked best?  What didn’t work?  If something doesn’t work at first, how can you change it to make it work?  Why do you think the ball always rolls downward?  This exhibit is a fun place to introduce the concept of “gravity” and there are plenty of other exhibits to experiment with using gravity.
Grades 3 – 5
Ask students to experiment with the Ball Drop at the far left of the gallery.  What happens when you drop just the top ball from a particular height?  Two?  All three?  This is a great place to discuss the transfer of energy that happens from one ball to the other when the balls fall and strike the base of the exhibit.  Students can also compare the “bouncy” quality of these balls with the other balls they find in the Bounce exhibit.
Explore the Newton’s Cradle exhibit with your students.  Compare the transfer of energy that happens between the balls with that of the balls dropped in the Ball Drop exhibit.  How are the two exhibits alike?  How are they different?  What other experiments can students think of to further explore transfer of energy?
Explore the Ramps exhibit with students.  Which cars work best on which tracks?  Why?  Does a car that performs poorly on one track perform better on another?  Why do you think the angle of the track matters?  Check out our explanation of Newton’s Laws of Motion beside this exhibit to see if it might aid in the discussion.
Grades 6 – 12
Check out the Wheel ramp exhibit to the left of the gallery.  Have students compare and time the different wheels as the send them down the track.  Which wheels make their way down the fastest?  The slowest?  How does the distribution of weight affect the roll?  What other factors affect the roll of the wheels? 
Explore the Tops exhibit and compare to the Wheel ramp exhibit.  Which tops are the longest spinners?  Which are the shortest?  Can you see a similarity with the distribution of weight/mass in the tops when compared to the wheels?  What other factors affect the spin of tops?
Experiment with the Catapult exhibit at the back of the gallery.  Can you get a ball in a cup?  Which cup is easiest to master?  Which is most difficult?  What variables impact the catapult launch?  Pay close attention to your successful launches.  Can you duplicate these circumstances and make another successful launch?  
Classroom Challenge
Grades PreK – 2
Car racing!  Who doesn’t love the excitement of a car race?  Have a class race using toy cars, but change things up a bit.  You can create a ramp that the cars can roll down using books or scrap pieces of wood.  Have students roll the cars on similar surfaces, at similar angles first and compare results.  Cars of similar weight should finish close together in a race.  Now, play with variables – change the incline of the ramps, making one steeper than the other.  How does this affect the race?  Change the surfaces of the ramps.  If one ramp is smooth and the other is very rough, which car will finish first?  Why? 
You can demonstrate Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion very simply with a balloon.  Fill the balloon with air and then let it go.  It’s that simple!  As the air blows out the back of the balloon, it propels the balloon forward.  For one action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Try filling balloons up to different amounts – some half full, some completely full – and see how they react differently as they shoot into the air.  Why do some travel further than others?   
Grades 3 – 5
Ask students to bring in a plastic top from home – or bring in a few of your own – tops can be found on the cheap at a local toy store or the toy department of your nearest department store.  Try to have as much variety as possible in top design, shape, etc.  Have students experiment with the tops, recording observations of which tops spin the longest, fastest, hardest to spin, easiest to spin and other things they notice about the tops.  At the conclusion of the activity, have students share their results.  Discuss how a top’s shape can affect the spin.  What other variables (person spinning, spinning surface, etc.) can affect a top’s spin? 
Explore Newton’s law of inertia.  Take a raw egg (don’t panic!) and have a student gently spin the egg on a flat surface.  As the egg is spinning, have the student – or model this yourself! – gently touch the egg with your finger in an attempt to stop the spin, but remove your finger quickly.   What happens?  The egg pauses, but continues to spin.  Ask student why this might happen.  This “ghost spin” of the raw egg is due to the fluid insides of the egg.  You are stopping the shell, but the yolk and white inside the egg are continuing to move in that same direction and cause the egg to keep spinning.  To go a little further, compare a raw egg spin to a hardboiled egg spin.  Touch each as they spin to try to stop them.   Students will notice that the raw egg keeps spinning while the solid, hardboiled egg stops.
Grades 6 - 12
Balloon Racers!  Using Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion, create some fun balloon rocket races in your classroom.  Take twine or fishing line and thread it through a drinking straw (or even half a straw).  Stretch the twine/fishing line between two points in the room.  Stretch it tight!  Repeat this procedure with a second line – spaced at least 18” – 2’ from the first line.  You can even go with 3 – 4 lines if you have the space.  Students will then blow up balloons and attach them to the straws using tape (masking tape is usually a little easier to remove), pinching the end to hold in the air, but not tying it off.  Have a countdown and have students simultaneously release their balloons.  The balloon “rockets” should streak down the line, using the twine/fishing line as a guide.   Which balloon made it the farthest?  What variables can impact the “flight” of the rocket?  What changes can students make to their balloons to make them go farther?  Straighter? 
Explore Newton’s Second Law with some simple equations.  From this second law, we derive the well- known formula of F (force ) = m (mass) x a (acceleration).  F = ma lets us work out the forces at work on objects by multiplying the mass of the object by the acceleration of the object.
The force at work on a Formula 1 car as it starts a race! If the F1 car has a Mass of 600kg and an Acceleration of 20m/s/s then we can work out the Force pushing the car by multiplying the Mass by the Acceleration like this 600 x 20 = 12000N (Newtons).
Try creating some problem like this for your students.  Challenge them by figuring out the algebraic solutions to simple equations like:
600 = 20 x a (solve for a by dividing 600 by 20 = 30)
f/2 = 25 (solve for  f by multiplying 2 x 25 = 50)
Grades K – 2
Grades 3 – 5
Grades 6 – 12

Recently On Display

Your Spitting Image

What does your spit say about you? Find out as you and your students explore forensic science, bioengineering and that amazing substance – saliva! This engaging exhibit also features a Junior Dental Lab for younger students.

Concepts: Dental science, forensic science, biomedical engineering, health/fitness, digestion 

Classroom Challenge

Try some of these activities in the classroom to further enrich your students experience with the Your Spitting Image exhibit. Most activities can be done pre- or post-visit. If you come up with an idea after visiting, or already have a dental/health activity you think would be interesting to share with others, please let us know! Email your ideas to the contact email on our website. We’d love to hear from you!

PreK – 3

Ask students to share their experiences on a recent dentist visit with the class. Were they scared? How do they feel now that the visit is over? What were some of the things/tools the dentist used to check their teeth and gums?

Create a class chart of dental visits. For younger students, you can also make it an emotions chart and ask students to label their visit with a happy face or sad face depending on their results – or their overall experience. Were they scared during the visit? Relaxed? Did they have any cavities?

Guest speaker – Invite a children’s dentist to speak to the class. Ask them to discuss what students will encounter on a visit to the dentist’s office. They can also give advice on brushing, flossing and even healthy eating to keep teeth strong and gums healthy.

Collages – Based on the dentist’s visit – or your own research – ask students to find images (using scrap magazines or old newspapers is also a great way to recycle!) of healthy foods for teeth and gums. For extra fun, have them create their collages on paper plates!

Grades 4 – 12 (Note: Some of these activities may be adapted to younger grades as well)

For a great experience with biomedical engineering, use the last resource link below, under grades 4 – 12, for a lesson on construction of a prosthetic arm. Fun, creative and the lesson makes strong real world connections as to the uses and importance of this field of study.

Careers – Have students research a career field related to the Your Spitting image exhibit. This can be done on an individual basis or by having students work together in groups. Dentists, forensic scientists/anthropologists, engineers – so many from which to choose! Ask students to research educational requirements, duties, overall descriptions and even salaries of their choices. Ask students to create a PowerPoint presentation for the class, discussing their career of choice and present to the class.

Guest speaker – Invite a member of law enforcement in to speak to the class – preferably someone who works as part of a forensics unit. Ask the presenter to discuss methods of identification for criminals and victims. Have students come up with pre-prepared questions for the speaker.


The following are a variety of resources for educators to help with follow-up activities and information from the Your spitting Image traveling exhibit. Some of the links are teacher specific, others, like the “Mouth Power” game for younger students, are great for kids. Please note the “best suited for older students or teachers” note regarding the article about forensic dentistry for grades 4 – 12.

Grades PreK - 3

Grades 4 – 12 (explore Biomedical Engineering) (Article best suited for older students or teachers – deals with criminal ID)

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