Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Science curriculum for K—5th grades.

90 sec
  • Hands-on lead students in the doing of science and engineering.
  • NGSS-aligned and Common Core make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards and support Common Core.
  • Less prep, more learning prep in minutes not hours. Captivate your students with short videos and discussion questions.

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Force Olympics

Forces, Machines, & Engineering

Kindergarten, 1st Grade

NGSS Standards covered: K-2-ETS1-3 , K-PS2-2 , K-2-ETS1-1 , K-2-ETS1-2 , K-PS2-1
This unit helps students develop their first concept of “force,” and the idea that by playing with forces and thinking about them, we can accomplish surprisingly big things. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Mystery 1: Pushes & Pulls

Be a Digging Machine

In this Mystery, students discover that there are pushes and pulls involved in any kind of work, including the work done by machines. In the activity, Be a Digging Machine, students pretend to use shovels and excavators to dig a hole for a swimming pool.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

Make sure students have enough space to move around as they dig like a digging machine. No other preparation needed.

Read-Along Mystery 2: Pushes, Pulls, & “Work Words”

Forces at Work

In this Read-Along Mystery, Vivian watches a house being built and wonders why the builders need so many big machines. The Mystery includes a short exercise where students act out the “work words” of their favorite machine. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Forces at Work, where students watch videos of construction equipment and practice using work words to describe what the machines are doing.

Prep Instructions

This activity does not require supplies.

As an optional activity, we include videos of three construction machines, like the ones Vivian saw in the story. The videos include songs about the construction machines and what they do.

We suggest you preview the videos. When you show them to your students, you may want students to act out what the machines do. After watching the videos, ask your students to describe what each machine does and identify the "work words" involved.

Mystery 3: Motion, Speed, & Strength

Don't Crush That House

In this Mystery, students change the strength and direction of a wrecking ball’s push in order to solve a tricky problem. The activity, Don't Crush That House, is a game in which students experiment with the force of a paper wrecking ball in order to knock down a wall of cups. The challenge is: they can’t knock down the paper houses!

Number of students:
Blank Paper (8.5 x 11")
Recycled is fine.
8 sheets
Scotch Tape
1 roll
Yardstick or Meterstick
8 sticks
Large Binder Clips (2")
16 clips
Masking Tape
1 roll
Solo Cups (9 oz)
24 cups
Yarn or ribbon will work well.
32 feet
Game Station Set printout Print 8 copies
Prep Instructions

Your students will play the Wrecking Ball game in groups, taking turns. To help you determine how many game stations to set up, we suggest splitting your class into groups of 4.

Prepare Game Stations Before Class

Before class, get all the Game Station pieces ready for your students. Follow the directions below or watch this video on how we put the stations together here at Mystery Science.

  1. Find the page titled “The Foldable Houses.” Cut out and fold the houses. (If you are making multiple stations, you can use a paper cutter.)
  2. Find “The Foldable Wrecking Ball” page. Fold it and tie it to the end of the ribbon, following the instructions printed on the sheet. Use transparent tape to keep the Wrecking Ball from unfolding.
  3. You are going to use masking tape to attach the yardstick to your support. To see how, watch this short video. For easier taping, clip the stick to the support first. Make sure the stick is at a 45º angle. Tape at two points — high & low.
  4. wreckingball

  5. Adjust the length of the ribbon so that the wrecking ball will hit the top of the cups as it swings. Clip the ribbon in place with a binder clip.
  6. Tape the Game Board to the floor, like this. (Match A with A and B with B.)


Your students will set up the cups and houses when they are ready to play. gameboard

Read-Along Mystery 4: Speed & Direction of Force

Human Bumper Bowling

In this Read-Along Mystery, Daniel worries he won’t do well at a friend’s Bumper Bowling party…until he figures out an unexpected way to win. The Mystery includes a short exercise where students act out bowling. If you want to extend the lesson, you can try this optional activity, Human Bumper Bowling, where students make a model bumper bowling alley and work together to knock down pins.

Number of students:
Hardcover Books
16 books
Yardstick or Meterstick
1 stick
Masking Tape
200 feet
Solo Cups (9 oz)
48 cups
Tennis Balls
8 balls
Prep Instructions

We recommend having students work in groups of four to six.

This activity requires enough floor space to set up “bowling alleys.” Decide how many you’ll set up and where you’ll put them. Using masking tape, mark off alleys that are 10 feet long and 2½ feet wide. Mark a box at the end to set the pins in. Leave room between your bowling alleys for students to sit on the floor.

Bowling Set Up

Mystery 5: Direction of Motion & Engineering

Boulder Bounce

In this Mystery, students investigate how pushes can change the speed and direction of falling objects. In the activity, Boulder Bounce, students play a game where they design a solution that protects a model town called Tiny Town from a bouncing-ball “boulder.”

Number of students:
Hardcover Books
Each pair of students needs a stack that’s about 3 inches high.
30 books
Corrugated Cardboard
Each pair needs four pieces measuring 8½ x 11 (or you can use a clipboard and 2 pieces of corrugated cardboard).
60 pieces
Dixie Cups (3 oz)
30 cups
Large Binder Clips (2")
If you are using clipboards and 2 pieces of cardboard, you do not need this supply.
15 clips
Masking Tape
15 feet
Push Pins
75 pins
Ping Pong Balls
Bouncy balls also work.
15 balls
Tiny Town Houses printout Print 15 copies
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work on their own.

We suggest one game station for every pair of students, but you can set up as many stations as you think might be practical for your classroom.

Set Up Game Stations Before Class

Tiny Town

  1. Make a “cardboard hill” by stacking 4 pieces of cardboard and clipping them together using a large binder clip. (If you are using a clipboard, stack two pieces of cardboard and insert under the clip of the clipboard.)

  2. Make a 3-inch stack of books on a desk or table. Make a hill by setting the clipped end of your cardboard on the edge of the books.

  3. Tape the bottom of the cardboard to the table with masking tape to keep the assembly from slipping.

  4. Tape one cup to the top right corner of the cardboard. Be sure the lip of the cup sits ON TOP of the cardboard’s edge, and not below it.

  5. Tape the other cup to the bottom left corner of the cardboard, so that it hangs off the edge of the clipboard and onto the table. Be sure the lip of the cup sits BELOW the edge of the cardboard, and not on top of it.

  6. Cut out the Tiny Town houses, fold, and place them next to the cup at the bottom of the ramp. Stick the pushpins into the top left corner of the assembly, and the game station is ready to go.

Read-Along Mystery 6: Forces & Engineering

Be an Inventor

In this Read-Along Mystery, twins Mimi and Lulu try different ways to catch a mysterious nighttime visitor…until they hit on just the right solution. The Mystery includes a short exercise where students imagine how to design a good monster trap, and then pretend to be sneaky monsters. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Be an Inventor, where students draw their own inventions for machines that do chores.

Number of students:
Blank Paper (8.5 x 11")
30 sheets
30 crayons
Prep Instructions

As an optional activity, we suggest you have your students explore what it takes to be an inventor. Have them watch this short video about inventors to start them thinking about the inventions all around us.

Then each student will think about and act out a chore they do. You may have to remind them of possible chores, such as making their bed, feeding the cat, walking the dog, setting the table, or picking up their toys. After acting out a chore, students will think up a machine that could help with this chore and draw their machine. Finally, students will share their drawing with a partner and explain how their machine works.