In the middle of our defying gravity experiment my 3-year old walked into the room and saw Luke Skywalker hanging upside down on a paper clip connected to a magnet (photo below). “Why is it not falling?” he demanded, his eyes wide with wonder. Even a 3-year old has a pretty good notion of how gravity works.
Star Wars is of huge interest to all my kids. Since we haven’t actually seen any of the movies, except my oldest son who watched bits of A New Hope, all the excitement comes from books. We read a lot of Star Wars books. If amazon sells it, we have probably read it. We also read aloud the original Star Wars trilogy book.
What I love about Star Wars is that it’s so easy to turn it into a lesson on any subject.
Let’s write a letter to Luke Skywalker. English.
Five storm troopers boarded the jet and three more storm troopers joined them. Math.
Velocity? Acceleration? Two sun planets? Science.
One of the science concepts that caught my kids interest is gravity. We decided it would be fun to explore this topic in more detail, do a couple of simple experiments (with Star Wars Lego characters) and answer some questions.
What is gravity? How strong is it? And can we break it?
Gravity as a force that keeps us on the ground. It is also keeping Earth and the other planets in our Solar system close to Sun. It is strong enough to hold us to the surface of the planet. It is strong enough to hold molecules of gas in the atmosphere. Gravity is one of the rare scientific concepts that is easy to see. Just pick up any toy and let it go. It will fall down. The force of the pull depends on the mass of the object. Does it mean a piano will fall out of the window faster than a tennis ball? Let’s try the first experiment.
Experiment 1: Gravity
What you need
Star Wars Lego Characters
Blocks or books for stacking
Pan with flour (optional, but oh so fun)
To build a bridge over a pan filled with flour and flip the characters of different sizes at the same time to see if they all land the same time.
Find Star Wars Lego characters of different sizes. We picked a smaller, lighter and rounder R2-D2 to be our lightest object. We picked a heavier and bulkier Storm Trooper and made him even heavier by giving him a weapon (our heaviest object). And we decided that Luke will make a good medium weight object if we give him a light gun.
If you don’t have Star Wars Lego Characters just pick any 2 objects: heavy and light.
To make the experiment more exciting and to make sure all the characters fall at the same time, we decided to build a gravity station. Use blocks or books to create two stacks. Put a ruler or any other flat, straight object across the void. Place a pan with flour under the ruler.
Ask your kids, “Do you think these three characters will hit the ground at the same time?” Older kids can record their predictions in a science journal.
Flip the ruler.
You should have heard only one thud as all the characters hit the flour at exactly the same time.
Repeat as needed to make absolutely sure.
The only reason we used the pan with flour is because, according to my kids, it makes it much more exciting and we are all about being excited here! But you can make an additional study of imprints and how depth varies between objects of different sizes and weights.
If you don’t want to bother with the bridge and a flour pan, just pick two objects, stand over an even surface and drop your items from the same height at the same time. Did your objects reach the ground at the same time?
It seems strange but objects that weigh a lot fall at the same speed that objects that weigh a little.
Of course my kids are obsessed with anything sensory and they spent the next few hours playing with Lego Star Wars characters having all kinds of misadventures in the pan of flour.
Cleaning tip: whatever you do, do NOT let the flour get wet.
Can the force of gravity be defied? Do you know that when you jump, for just a second, you are defying gravity? Can you think of some other examples where gravity can be broken? What about static electricity that causes your hair stand up on end? What about magnets? Can magnets prevent a paper clip from falling down?
If you are familiar with the classical magnets-paper clip experiment, you know that a paper clip will rais in the air and hover, if there is a magnet placed over it.
As you can see the paper clip is prevented from flying towards the magnet because the string is attached to the paper clip and taped to the bottom of the box. The magnet is pulling the paper clip up and since it can’t quite reach the magnet, it just hangs in the air defying gravity.
Magnets and paper clips are fascinating. Thinking back to our Lego Man Goes Skiing experiment last winter, we got an idea to try paper clips and magnets to show how Star Wars Characters will NOT fall down when they should be falling down.
Experiment 2: Defying Gravity
Our original idea was to attach paper clips to the Star Wars Lego characters with tape. Tie a string around the characters and tape the string to the ground. Then use a heavy magnet to raise the Star Wars characters in the air. Our hypotheses was that the magnet would pull the paper clips up and the characters will hover. Unfortunately, our hypothesis didn’t work out because our magnets were not strong enough to keep the characters in the air. We are still looking for stronger magnets that will let us keep the Lego men in the air but for now we modified the experiment, so that we could still defy gravity even with weaker magnets.
What you need
Star Wars Lego Characters
Blocks or books
Pan with flour
Tape (to attach paper clips)
Magnets (affiliate link)
To check if we can defy gravity using magnets and paper clips taped to Star Wars characters.
We tried different variations of taping paper clips to Star Wars Lego characters and I’m here to tell you that against all logic more is NOT better. The more bulky the tape, the less it holds the paper clips. What worked best for us is when I cut a thin strip and then cut it in half.
Use the bridge from experiment 1 or build a new one.
Place magnets on top of a ruler. (You might need to experiment to find a ruler that is thin enough for magnets to work).
Place the characters under the bridge, right under the magnets. Let go off your characters.
My kids were amazed that the magnet would hold a character in the air, even when the paper clip only touches the ruler by the very tip of one side.
My kids enjoyed moving the characters around by shifting the magnets.
Sometimes characters didn’t make it through the abyss.
Once you attach paper clips to Lego characters you can start experimenting with placing them around the house. It’s interesting to see how magnets and paper clips prevent the characters from falling when they should be falling otherwise. Here is a Storm Trooper hanging the side of our craft table.
This begs a question: What is more powerful gravity or magnetism?
What do you think?
Magnetism can work against gravity, but does it mean it is stronger? In fact, scientists are still debating the ultimate answer to this question (here a quick read for parents, if you want to learn more on this subject), for now I told my kids that Gravity and Magnetism are both strong forces and they would have to wait until they are older and discover the answer on their own.
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STAR WARS BLOG HOP
Star Wars enthusiasts are ready to enjoy Star Wars activities any day of the year, but they might enjoy it even more on May 4th, the day that has officially became known as a Star Wars Day. “May the 4th be with you!” Who can resist the catchphrase? To celebrate the occasion I have joined a couple of cool bloggers to bring you even more Star Wars themed activities. You can visit the Star Wars Blog Hop Homepage by clicking here or click individual links below for creative activities, recipes, crafts and more.
Try this Star Wars Sensory Bin from Something 2Offer
The Jenny Evolution has some great Activity Books for All Ages
Yummy Rogue One Ice Cream recipe is a favourite from Nerdy Mamma
Share It! Science News has some fabulous Activities for Exploring Planets with 2 Suns!
Make some of these fabulous Droid Crafts from Play & Learn Everyday
These DIY Party Favours from Kidz Activities would be a hit at any party!
Mrs LeBlancs Learners are learning Star Wars in the Classroom
Defying Gravity! Sounds like great fun from Kid Minds
Make your own Airplane Fly Off like Royal Baloo!
Brush up on your galaxy sums with Daily Math from 3 Dinosaurs
KC Edventures is sharing a great Planets Math Activity
Peakle Pie shares some cute Paper Plate Ewoks
If you are a blogger and want to share your Star Wars ideas with us, please, link them up below after 2pm CT on April 30th.