How Do Things Fall?

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Learners engage in close observation of falling objects. They determine it is the amount of air resistance, not the weight of an object, which determines how quickly an object falls. This demonstration and activity can be combined with other activities to create a larger lesson. Resource contains vocabulary definitions and suggestions for assessment, extensions, and scaling for different levels of learners.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • One Styrofoam or plastic cup
  • Water
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Drop cloth or tarp (or conduct demo outside)
  • Balls of different sizes and weights
  • A book and a sheet of cardboard of the same length and width as the book
  • Objects that encounter more air resistance when dropped than the other objects (i.e., a feather or a sheet of paper)
  • Other options for objects to drop: coins, plastic bag, play plastic army men, or other objects that are exactly the same.


  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Newton's Laws
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Zamora-Thompson, Xochitl ; Heavner, Ben ; Schaefer Zarske, Malinda ; Carlson, Denise

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2004

Funding Sources:

  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • National Science Foundation, 0226322