Just Go!

By Susie Jessop, February 11, 2009

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Science

Lesson Time

Two, forty-five minute block


This lesson will explore the idea that the way to change how something moves is to give it a push or a pull.

Students will design a tool that makes a toy car move by either pushing or pulling.

Students will discover that a force (a push or pull) is always involved when something starts to move.

National Standards


Standard 10. Level 1.  Understands forces and motion

4.  Knows that the position and motion of an object can be changed by pushing or pulling.

5.  Knows that things move in many different ways (e.g., straight line, zigzag, vibration, circular motion).

Standard 12.  Level 1.  Understands the nature of scientific inquiry

1. Knows that learning can come from careful observations and simple experiments.

3.  Makes predictions based on patterns.

Standard 13. Level 1.  Understands the scientific enterprise
1.  Knows that in science it is helpful to work with a team and share findings with others.


As a result of planning, trying and observing different ways to make their toy car start moving, students will develop their understanding of forces (pushes and pulls) in changing motion.


Eyewitness: Force and Motion by Peter Lafferty 

Forces and Movementt (Straightforward Science) by Peter Riley

The Magic School Bus Plays Ball:  A Book About Forces by Joanna Cole

Start and Stop (The Way Things Move) by Lola Ms. Schaefer

No More Jumping On The Bed by Tedd Arnold


Gather materials students can use to design a tool that will make their toy cars roll, including rulers, straws, string, tape, rubber bands, cardboard tubes, marbles and strips of card stock or poster board.

Make a large chart, titled "What makes the cars start moving?" with columns labeled "Try" and "What Happened?"


force - A push or a pull.

motion - Going from one place to another.


Day 1:
Place a toy car on a smooth surface where everyone can see it.  Tell the car to "Just go!"  Wait and look frustrated.  Tell the class that you are waiting for the car to start moving.  Wave a magic wand over the car and tell it to "Just go!"  Threaten the car.  Bribe it to go with extra recess time.

Ask the children how they think we can make the car move.  Tell them to be specific if they simply say "push it."  Have a child demonstrate how they can move the car.

Brainstorm different ways to make a car move.  Record their ideas on the chart under "Try."  Tell them to be specific.  

Choose one idea and test it.  Ask the children to describe their observations.  Ask the students: "How did the car move?" "Did it move in a straight line?"  "Did it change speeds?"  "How far did it go?"  Record their observations on the chart under "What Happened?"

Tell the students that today they will work with a partner to design a tool to help them make their toy car move.  Tell them that the problem is they can not use their hands to push or pull the car but that they need to use any of the supplies in the classroom to design a tool to help move the car.

Divide the students into pairs.

"Talk with your partner and decide how you will make your car move and what supplies you will need to design your tool.  Sketch and/or write what your design will look like.  Will your tool push or pull the car when it moves?"

Allow the class time to build their design and then experiment with making the toy cars move.  

Day 2:
Review the chart and the ideas that were brainstormed on Day 1 on "what makes the cars start moving?" 

Each pair of students will demonstrate their design and how it helped move their car.  Record their designs in the "Try" column and their observations in the "What Happened?" column.

Introduce the term force.   Explain that force is simply a push or a pull, and that forces are needed to start something in motion or change the direction.

Look back at the chart and focus on the different design strategies that the students came up with.  Classify each design as either a push or a pull.

Ask the students: "Did all the ways involve either a push or a pull?"  "Can you think of other ways to make a car move without using a push or a pull?" (If students suggest that dropping the car or rolling it down a ramp is a way to make the car move without pushing or pulling, explain that the "pull of gravity" moved the car.)

Reflect and discuss what you might change about your design so that it can work even better?  

In a Science Journal record how your design make the car start to move.  Record whether you used a push or a pull.


As you observe the students exploration, note the student's understanding of the connection between forces (pushing and pulling) and changes in motion.  

Ask students: "Explain to me, how your design helped move the car?"  "Is your design pushing or pulling your car?"

Enrichment Extension Activities

1.  Put cars, marbles and balls in a Science Center along with various materials and encourage students to try to make new designs that will move the objects. Post the "What makes the cars start moving?" chart and help children record their results on it.  Encourage students to look for and document ways to change the motion, such as direction and speed.  Students could also record if they used either a "push" or "pull."

2.  Extend the lesson by experimenting with how force is necessary to change an object's direction and speed.  Ask children how you can get a ball to turn or change direction? How can you make the speed increase or decrease? Experiment.

3.  Explore the concept of gravity by watching a You Tube video of astronauts eating M-n-M's in space.  Ask the question, "What would happen if we didn't have gravity?"

4. As an art extension activity, line trays or empty boxes with blank paper and let the children roll marbles dipped in paint to create and record different paths of motion.  Encourage students to make a straight path, curved path, zigzag path...   Talk about the forces that created the different paths.

5.  As a writing extension activity, students could write about some of the pushes and pulls they use during various activities, such as playing soccer, playing the piano or going down the slide.

6.  During Physical Education, students could experiment with different movements and decide if they are using a push or a pull.  Motions such as playing basketball, climbing the monkey bars or jumping rope involve both pushing and pulling.

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