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This activity (on page 2 of the PDF under SciGirls Activity: Tug O' War) is a full inquiry investigation into tug-of-war physics. Groups of learners will test two tug-of-war strategies. Which is better: a team of a few big kids or lots of smaller kids? Learners form teams based on weight. Each team is timed as it pulls a sled of sand bags equal to their weight for 30 feet. Learners determine an average pull time for each time (after resting) and compare the results. Relates to linked video, DragonflyTV: Tug O’ War.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • sand bags, 50 lb. each
  • a plastic snow sled, with large diameter rope attached
  • a flat grassy surface outdoors
  • a 50’ tape measure
  • cones or markers
  • a stopwatch
  • a bathroom scale


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Muscles and Skin
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
      • Rate
    • Number and Operations
      • Decimals
    • Reasoning and Proof
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Energy and Power
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Games
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity
  • Sports and Exercise


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Highlights STEM opportunities for this group
    • Identifies role models or mentors in STEM fields from this group
    • Uses inclusive images of people from this group


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2006

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 436260