Balancing Stick

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In this quick and simple activity, learners explore how the distribution of the mass of an object determines the position of its center of gravity, its angular momentum, and your ability to balance it. Learners discover it is easier to balance a wooden dowel on the tip of their fingers when a lump of clay is near the top of the stick. Use this activity to introduce learners to rotational inertia.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per student)

  • One 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) wooden dowel, approximately 3 feet (90 cm) long
  • A lump of clay (such as electrical tape)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Rotation Motion
      • Center of Gravity
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Physical Activity
  • Science Festivals Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America