Volcanic Material Catapult Investigation

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This activity (located on page 3 of the PDF under GPS: Lava Flow Activity) is a full inquiry investigation into the relationship between an object’s mass and the distance it is thrown by a catapult. Groups of learners will assemble a simple plastic spoon catapult and test launch “tephra” (material ejected from volcanoes) of different masses, calculate average throwing distance and graph their recorded results. Relates to linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Lava Flow.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 rubber bands
  • plastic spoons
  • 10 quarter-inch washers
  • 2" x 2" x 3" wooden blocks
  • tape
  • 30 cm rulers
  • a meter stick or metric tape measure
  • goggles


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Projectile Motion
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


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., 2007

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 610429