Explore and experiment with concepts in physics with these great Web sites. Many of the interactive simulations you will find here would be excellent for smart board use.
Quick Links: Elementary | High School | Teachers
Elementary and Middle School
Way to Go Einstein from the American Museum of Natural History includes information about Einstein as well as illustrated instructions for simple experiments.
Dragonfly TV features video clips of students doing inquiry investigations. Many physics topics are covered as kids investigate the sweet spot on a bat, how hot air balloons work, roller coaster design, light and color, and more. The Games section includes physics and engineering games for kids such as Mechanical Madness and Sailing.
Sport Science from the Exploratorium makes physics relevant with studies of baseball, cycling, hockey, skateboarding and surfing.
Teachers' Domain has a large collection of physics and physical science video clips and lesson plans. Create a free account, search by grade level and topic, and save clips to your own folders. Examples:
• Energy in a Roller Coaster from Teachers' Domain demonstrates how potential energy is converted to kinetic energy with a simple animation.
• With a short video, Lightning! from Teachers' Domain explains the physics behind electrical storms
The National Air and Space Museum's interactive Forces of Flight allows students to experiment with lift, drag, thrust and weight to redesign a plane to make a plane to fly faster or go higher.
Gravity Launch from Thinkfinity's Science NetLinks is an interactive activity that allows students to virtually launch a rocket into space to see how the force of gravity can pull an object toward the earth and moon. Students also can experiment with different thrust and angle settings to learn how these settings change the motion of the rocket.
Building Big from PBS explores the history behind some of the world's greatest feats of engineering and the ingenuity of the engineers, architects, and builders who designed and built them. Labs on the Web site allow students to experiment with the physics of forces, materials, loads and shapes.
Two games on PBS's Curious George web site let young children experiment with physics concepts. In Feed Gnocchi, students play with Newtonian physics by manipulating increasingly complex system of ramps to get a meatball to land on a plate for George's cat. In Pogo-a-Gogo, children must learn how George bounces and then add or subtract blocks to make him bounce to reach the objects he needs. Additional offline physics activities for young children like Ramp and Roll are provided in the activities section for parents and teachers.
Blasto the Cannonball lets students experiment with changing the cannon angle, weight of a projectile, wind speed, and so forth.
Matter from the Tech Museum of Innovation takes upper elementary or middle school students on an interactive tour of matter. The site includeds illustrations of concepts and activities concerning the structure of the atom, how elements make up compounds, three states of matter, molecular motion, and properties of different materials.
Moovl is an online program that allows users to draw, animate and apply physical properties to objects. Students can discover on their own what happens when they make a ball bouncier, an object heavier, or friction greater. A short video showing Moovl use in the classroom is available at the UK Moovl site.
High SchoolThe Physics Education Technology (PhET) site offers interactive simulations of physical phenomena. More than 80 simulations let students experiment with circuits, string tension, kinetic and potential energy, radio waves and electromagnetic fields, balloons and static electricity, ideal gas and buoyancy, velocity and acceleration, sound waves and the Doppler Effect, and more. These simulations from the University of Colorado may be used online or downloaded, and each one is accompanied by sample learning goals and teaching tips. You can even install the entire Web site on your own computer so you don't need to be online to use the simulations. If you’re a middle school or high school student or teacher interested in physics or physical science, don’t miss this site!
Circus Physics from PBS takes students underneath the big top as they learn the physics principles behind circus tricks. What could be more fun than studying projectile motion through juggling or linear and angular momentum through trapeze tricks? Video clips of performers from the Big Apple Circus are accompanied by diagrams, formulas and problems. Activity guides with additional information for teachers, and downloadable video clips that can be used with VideoPoint or similar software for classroom analysis lend more depth to this resource.
The ASPIRE Web site from the University of Utah features online simulations and lessons on topics such as waves, force and motion, kinetic energy, and more. (ASPIRE stands for Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Research and Education.)
Physclips introduces mechanics through video clips and animations. This extensive site from a physics professor in Australia covers acceleration, circular motion, Newton's laws, energy and power, momentum, gravity, and more.
Physlets is an extensive collection of animations of physics concepts from Davidson University and Lawrence Technological University. Concepts include kinematics, frictional force, momentum, torques, gravity, optics, electrostatics, circuits, waves, and more. These JAVA applets can be used online or installed on your computer.
This collection of Physics Animations is from the University of Toronto. Topics include chaos, classical mechanics, fluid mechanics, quantum mechanics, optics, relativity, vectors, waves, and more. These animations are also available in Spanish.
The Museum of Models: Physics provides more than 40 online interactives that demonstrate concepts in mechanics, fluid mechanics and dynamics, electromagnetism, and quantum physics. Watch simulations of a pendulum, suspension bridge, charged particle in a magnetic chamber, hourglass, Archimedes' Principle of Buoyancy, electrical fields, gears, light-matter interactions, Newton's Cradle, pulleys, springs, water flow when a dam collapses, and more. This site is from the Concord Consortium and the National Science Foundation.
Learn how to build your own cosmic ray detector, make a nucleus out of marshmallows, or ask a nuclear scientist a question on The ABC's of Nuclear Science site, provided by the Nuclear Science division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Teachers can print or order the Nuclear Physics Wall Chart that covers topics such as radioactivity, nuclear energy, stellar energy, the Big Bang, and more.
Inquiring Minds from the US Department of Energy's Fermilab describes the science of matter, space, and time, and provides information about particle physics. A short video and a timeline illustrating the history of high-energy physics are interesting features.
The Interactive Plasma Physics Education Experience from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory features interactive modules on matter, electricity and magnetism, energy, and fusion.
Operation Infinite Potential from the Jason Project allows students to investigate and analyze emerging technologies designed to meet the needs of an energy-hungry planet. The Coaster Creator Digital Lab challenges students to design a roller coaster that provides maximum thrills, while still keeping riders safe.
Learning about Properties of Vectors and Vector Sums Using Dynamic Software uses dynamic geometrical representation to help students develop an understanding of vectors and their properties. Students manipulate vectors to control the movement of a car or a plane in these two interactives from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Illuminations site.
Teachers' Domain has a large collection of physics and physical science video clips and lesson plans. Create a free account, search by grade level and topic, and save clips to your own folders. An example:
• Virtual Car: Velocity and Acceleration demonstrates how vectors are used to represent velocity (speed and direction) and acceleration. In the activity, vectors change in real time as you "drive" a car on a flat plane; as you change speed and direction, vectors originating from the car respond to your actions. A graph depicting speed vs. time also responds to your actions, displaying both the speed and acceleration of the car.
Galileo's Experiments from NOVA animates the concepts of falling objects, projectiles, inclined planes, and pendulums.
E = mc 2 Explained: Listen to 10 top physicists explain Einstein's theory of relativity in these video clips from the NOVA program Einstein's Big Idea. These videos are also available for free download from iTunes.
Moving Targets from NOVA demonstrates how astronomers use the Doppler Effect to determine stellar velocities.
Sodaconstructor is a construction kit for interactive creations using masses and springs. Students can use Sodaconstructor to help them learn about the physics behind buildings and machines. By altering physical properties like gravity, friction, spring stiffness and speed, theories can be tested and models can be made to walk, climb, fall or collapse. Additional tools are available at the Sodaplay site, and some lesson plans are available at http://www.cs4fn.org/alife/sodarace/teachers/teachers.php
TeachersThe NOVA Teachers page lists many NOVA programs with physics topics. Look in the green box for teacher guides and online interactives that accompany each program.
The American Association of Physics Teachers provides many resources for teachers such as publications, grants, teaching resources student contests and more.
ComPADRE: Digital Resources for Physics and Astronomy Education helps teachers and learners find, and use, high quality resources in the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). Resources include the Physics Front and Physics to Go.
The National Science Teachers Association Learning Center provides web-based science learning activities for teachers. Learn about the universe, force and motion, energy, particles, and more.
Last updated 6/21/2011