Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Gravity on Earth

Subject Area





In this lesson, students will share their background knowledge of gravity and how it affects skydivers. After a brief whole group discussion on gravity, students will work in small groups to explain why the International Space Station does not fall to Earth. Finally, students will create a model helicopter to provide evidence that the gravitational force of earth will cause the helicopter to fall downward toward the center of Earth.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 5


    Construct an explanation from evidence to illustrate that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed downward towards the center of Earth.

    Unpacked Content



    • construct
    • explanation
    • gravitational force
    • evidence
    • illustrate
    • spherical


    Students know:
    • The Earth's shape is spherical.
    • That objects dropped appear to fall straight down.
    • That people live all around the spherical Earth, and they all observe that objects appear to fall straight down.


    Students are able to:
    • Construct an explanation of observed relationships.
    • Use evidence to illustrate the relationship between gravity and objects on Earth.


    Students understand that:
    • If Earth is spherical, and all observers see objects near them falling directly "down" to the Earth's surface, then all observers would agree that objects fall toward the Earth's center.
    • Since an object that is initially stationary when held moves downward when it is released, there must be a force (gravity) acting on the object that pulls the object toward the center of the Earth.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect

    Primary Learning Objectives

    Students will construct an explanation from evidence to illustrate that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed downward towards the center of Earth.



    Show skydiving video (3:05). Begin a whole group discussion to activate background knowledge on gravity and how it affects the skydivers in the video. Next, students will turn and talk to their groups to discuss why the gravitational pull of earth does not cause the International Space Station to fall out the sky, but it does cause the skydiver to fall to earth. Students will record their answers in their science journals.


    Students will use the helicopter template  found on slide 4 of the slideshow to create a model helicopter that can be used to demonstrate how the gravitational pull of the Earth affects objects. Students will create the helicopters from the template and drop them from a height of 3 feet. In their science journals, the students will record their observations of what happens to the helicopter as it is released. 


    Using the template, each group of students will create 2 additional helicopters. All 3 helicopters will be dropped at the same time. One from a height of  3 feet, one from 4 feet, and one from 5 feet. Students will time the descent of the helicopters and record the data in their science journals. Repeat 5 times.

    Students will use data from this activity to construct an explanation to support their claim that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed downward towards the center of Earth.

    Assessment Strategies


    Review Questions see slide #5

    Teacher observation of science journals - students should be able to explain the following: the International Space Station is a long distance away from Earth and the gravitational pull of our planet is not strong enough to pull it down to Earth. Since the skydivers are much closer to Earth, the gravitational pull causes them to fall to Earth.

    Teacher observation of helicopter model design, construction, and testing.

    CER: Students will make a claim regarding how the gravitational force of Earth affects objects and use data from their helicopter activity to support that claim. They will conclude this assessment with an explanation or reasoning for their claim. 


    ELL: The student handouts could be translated into the native language of the student. The ELL teacher can also provide assistance to students.

    Students with disabilities: Students can work with a peer helper or with the pull-out teacher.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    61 to 90 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    The teacher should preview the gravity slideshow prior to the lesson.

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    For each student:

    • helicopter template,
    • scissors,
    • review questions,
    • pencils,
    • sceince journals, and
    • tape

    Technology Resources Needed

    Computer with internet access