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Indiana Wesleyan University

Bailey Count
Catapult Construction, SCIENCE LESSON #2
4th grade, Miss McAdams, Frances Slocum Elementary

This lesson is meant for students to perform investigations regarding how the way a machine is constructed affects the
amount of energy able to be generated. Students will collaborate to solve a question of inquiry and construct a catapult to
launch an object the farthest. By demonstrating effective teamwork and problem solving, students engage in the overall
unit idea that each individual serves a purpose within the whole.

I. Goals/Objectives/Standard(s)
A. Goal(s)—Unit (broad terms)
a. By the end of this unit, students will have engaged in multiple learning scenarios that promote
teamwork and community development.
b. Students will acquire in depth knowledge about a variety of social and communication skills, and
understand the impact their actions have on their community.
c. Students will conduct student-led scientific investigations to answer questions of inquiry and test the
natures of science.
B. Objective(s)—
a. After completing this lesson, students will have worked in small groups to construct a catapult to
investigate what factors affect the amount of energy created.
b. After completing this lesson, students will have demonstrated their knowledge of potential and kinetic
energy by engaging in a grand discussion.
C. Standard(s):
a. 4.PS.4 Describe and investigate the different ways in which energy can be generated and/or
converted from one form of energy to another form of energy.
b. SEPS.1 Posing questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
II. Management Plan- Time per lesson element, use of space, list of materials. Describe expectations and procedures.
a. Time
i. Anticipatory set-5 min
ii. Mini-lesson-5 min
iii. Investigation-35 min
iv. Closure-10 min
b. Space
i. Anticipatory Set-whole group reading carpet
ii. Mini-Lesson-whole group reading carpet
iii. Investigation-Small groups scattered around the room
iv. Closure-whole group reading carpet
c. Materials
i. bottle caps
ii. rubber bands of varying sizes
iii. thick popsicle sticks
iv. marshmallows
v. variety of balls (basketball, tennis ball, soccer ball, bouncy ball)
III. Anticipatory Set
• Ball Drop activity
● The teacher will have a variety of balls and will be dropping them from the same height
● “As I drop each ball one by one, I want a student to come take a sticky note and place it where they think
the ball bounced to and label which one it was. Once all of them are done, I want you to be ready to share
why you think the balls bounced at different heights even though I dropped them from the same place.”
● “It is interesting to see how there are some factors that can affect how high the ball will jump, I wonder if
there are other things this applies to.”

IV. Purpose:
“Today you are going to be inventors to see if you and your team members can create a catapult to be able to launch a
marshmallow across the classroom. Remember, the way you construct your catapult could possibly affect how much power

your catapult has, just like how the size of balls I used affected how high they bounced. You will be working as a team and
each of you will have a part in creating this.”

Question to Investigate: “In what way should you construct a catapult to make it launch the marshmallow the farthest?”
● Students are given time to respond and form a hypothesis about what factors are going to make their catapults
more efficient. This will be referenced at the end of the lesson for students to evaluate whether or not their
hypothesis was correct.


V. Adaptation to Individual Differences and Diverse Learners--
a. kinesthetic/visual & spatial learners- for my active learners, I am providing a model for students to
create for them to see how different factors affect the amount of energy a mechanism can produce; also
keeps them actively engaged
b. I am grouping students beforehand and am grouping students with particular students I have noticed
(ex: leader, critical thinker, creative, and communicator)
c. Facilitating an atmosphere of encouragement and cooperation in order for students to work together to
accomplish a goal

VI. Lesson Presentation (Input/Output)

● I will take the different balls and have students come to the front of the classroom and hold them in a row.
● “Notice, as the students are just holding these balls, nothing has happened yet. The energy it takes for the balls to
drop has not happened yet, because it is still potential energy. Potential energy is the pent up energy before it is let
go. For example, when a roller coaster reaches the top of a hill, when it halts at the top, that is the potential energy.
Once the roller coaster goes down the hill, that is what we call kinetic energy. For our balls, the potential energy is
when we are holding them, waiting to drop. Once they drop, that is the kinetic energy.”
● The teacher will make the connection to the catapult, once it is made, before you sling the marshmallow is the
potential energy, once you let it go, the energy turns into kinetic energy, because it is moving.
● “Once you get your materials, think about how you can make your catapult to have the most potential energy. The
more potential energy, the more powerful your launch will be.”
o Students will be split into groups and sent to tables with the materials already in place.
o I will model appropriate behavior on how to handle the materials, showing that you share them with
everyone and do not start playing with the rubber bands, etc.
o I will pull up a timer on the screen for students to see how long they have to work on their mini-
o I will assign roles to students including leader, recorder, constructor, designer, and encourager (each
role has a designated purpose to help the team work efficiently and cohesively)
● Students will then be given 35 minutes to start constructing their mini catapult, the end result can be different
for every group, the goal is to be able to launch a marshmallow, and one team will be rewarded for going the
● The teacher will be monitoring students and informally observing students ability to problem solve
● “Where do you think a good place to start would be?”
● “Are you going to utilize all the materials or just some of them?”
● “What could you do to make the catapult stronger? To create more potential energy to make the marshmallow go

VII. Check for understanding. How do you know students have learned?
a. If multiple groups are struggling to get started with the foundation of the catapult, I will give each group
a booklet of example catapults, all different in the way they are built and appear
i. This is meant for students to form ideas of how they can use the materials they have, students
must also identify which catapults in the book they think are more effective based on the way
they are built
b. As I walk from the groups to monitor progress, I will use multi-tiered questions to gather information of
students’ understanding of potential and kinetic energy
i. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of potential and kinetic energy in the closure
when they test their catapult, the students will explain when the energy is potential and
kinetic when using the catapult
ii. I will use this closure time as an opportunity to reteach the key vocabulary terms learned
earlier, using the students’ creations to form connections and meaning
c. If students seem to understand well and get finished early, I will let them have a demo time with their
catapults to see how effectively it works with other objects in the hallway

VIII. Review learning outcomes / Closure
a. I will congratulate students on working together and highlighting any students whom I noticed took initiative to
lead and assist their groups
b. (In the hallway) Students will demonstrate how effective their catapult works by launching a marshmallow
i. If certain catapults were not finished or did not work well I will allow other groups help brainstorm
what they could do to make it work efficiently
ii. “Class, what could we do to help this groups catapult launch this marshmallow even farther? Is there
anything you think they should add?”
c. If extra time permits, students will be allowed to explore launching other small objects with their catapults


● Informal observation during investigation time-teacher monitoring student progress and
understanding through conversations and questioning
● Targeted/Multi-tiered questions that the teacher asks in the small group conferences and during the
closure time
● During small group conferences, have students do the thumbs up/thumbs down method to show me
how comfortable they are with this activity and feel like they understanding what their role is (if
thumbs down, address group as a whole and ask student what they feel about the activity to help gauge
how to give redirection)


1. How many students achieved the lesson objective(s)? For those who did not, why not?
2. What were my strengths and weaknesses?
3. How should I alter this lesson?
4. How would I pace it differently?
5. Were all students actively participating? If not, why not?
6. What adjustments did I make to reach varied learning styles and ability levels?
a. Did assigning student roles help students work efficiently and cohesively?
b. Can this lesson be accomplished in one time period, or should it be split into two days?
c. Were students able to make the connection of potential and kinetic energy with their catapults?