Suspension Bridge Lesson: Surface Area and Physics

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OVERVIEW: Students have the opportunity to conduct their own investigation so that they can explore surface area, arrow dynamics, gravity, tension, and speed science concepts. Specifically, they will explore this question: "What is the relationship of leaf surface area size and its velocity when you drop it from the suspension bridge watching it land to the ground? Additionally, students will use their observation and critical thinking skills to determine the answer to our investigable questions.



Leafs (any type that are easily available), stop watches one for each student (optional), data tables located on a page inside their journals (optional), white board and a marker (optional).


You may need four minutes if you are conducting one trial of this investigation only and you may or may not require students to record their results inside their journals. You may need at least 10 minutes if you want each one of your students to conduct at least three trials and or you want them to record their results inside their journals.


Instructor should consider the emotional safety of group to determine how long you want to spend conducting this lesson on the suspension bridge. Most importantly, you should allow students to participate in this activity by allowing each of them to grab two leafs (or however many leafs you want them to grab) and to have students drop their leaves on the ground while they record their observations thinking to themselves inside their own heads (you will spend at least 30 seconds until at least 1 minute observing it visually). Next the instructor exits off the suspension bridge to gather their results from their investigation. The suspension bridge is a little distracting when explaining this lesson in detail.


1. As your group arrives to the suspension bridge ask your students these questions, “What do you think will happen if I drop two leaves (or how many you want for this investigation) on to the ground from the suspension bridge? Which leaf will fall to the ground faster?” Wait for their responses and allow room to conduct a conversation about your investigable question. Instructors have options on how they would like to manage their group for the conversation. Specifically, instructors can split group into A/B partnerships, or have them write inside their journals, or allow students to have at least 30 seconds of thinking time before they respond to the question as a group, or instructors can create other interesting combinations to have students explore this question. This conversation component may take your group at least five minutes to explore. Most importantly, allow enough time to review safety rules before crossing the suspension bridge and conducting this experiment on the suspension bridge. Additionally, access emotional safety to determine the length of conducting this experiment on the suspension bridge.

2. Have students grab two leafs (or as much you want them to grab).

3. Stop at least midway on the suspension bridge with your group. Next, have students drop leafs from the suspension bridge and record their observations inside their journals or make observations by allowing students to remember what happened.

4. Walk off the suspension bridge. Next have a conversation with your students to discuss with them the results.

See also Suspension Bridge