Air resistance and drawing free body diagrams

Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about air resistance and free body diagrams (GCSE and Key Stage 3)

A feather and a bowling ball are dropped at the same time. Which hits the ground first? This question requires really profound thinking, and really challenges students’ prior conceptions. Intuitively the bowling ball will hit the ground first because it is heavier. But this clip shows this is not the case when we remove all air particles. Here, Professor Brian Cox drops a feather and a bowling ball in the world’s largest vacuum chamber. 

Drawing free body diagrams

Drawing free body diagramsKey Stage 3 and GCSE worksheet on Newton’s first law of motion. Students identify and label forces acting on a tennis ball that has been hit by a racket. Many will mistakenly think there is a force acting in the direction of motion. Of course there is not, only air resistance and weight are acting. (PDF)

GSSE worksheet on drawing free body diagrams. Students draw free body diagrams for some challenging situations. They can use the worksheet to check their answer. More information on drawing free body diagrams can be found here. (PDF)

This link to the forces dance mat is a great way to assess whether students understand simple force diagrams.

Modelling air resistance

Key Stage 3/GCSE activity on modelling air resistance. Ping pong balls and juggling balls are used to mode air resistance and get students feeling the force. Students discuss a series of questions about the model and air resistance. This demonstration should only be used with a class that you are confident with! (PDF)

  1. Air resistance
  2. Moments
  3. Pressure
  4. Weight