Lunar and Planetary Institute

Space Stations - Follow the Bouncing Ball!
EXPLORE! Health in Space

Space Stations - Follow the Bouncing Ball!


Children predict whether a ball on Earth or a ball on the Moon bounces higher when dropped (or thrown at the floor) and why. They simulate the experiment by dropping high- and regular-bounce balls from their shoulder height.

Activity Time

5 minutes

Intended Audience

Families or other mixed-age groups, including children as young as 4 years old with assistance from an older child, teen, or adult
School-aged children ages 5–7 and 8–9
Tweens up to about age 13

Type of Program

Facilitated hands-on experience
Station, presented in combination with related activities
Passive program
☐ Demonstration by facilitator

What's the Point?

  • Astronauts — and kids! — need to rest, relax, and have fun.
  • Astronauts experienced less gravity on the Moon, so dropping a ball on the Moon would cause it to bounce much higher than on Earth.

Facility Needs

  • 1 or more tables
  • A small container or bag to hold the activity materials



For the Facilitator

For Each Group of 1–3 Children

Not all high-bounce balls actually are. Test them to make sure! You may substitute other pairs of balls for high-bounce and jacks balls, as long as they bounce at noticeably different heights.


Six months before the activity

    • Determine the setup of your program, including any complementary activities or extensions that you’d like to combine with this activity. This activity may be offered as a brief learning experience on its own, as part of a longer facilitator-led program, or as a station in combination with other health- and space-related activities. For passive programs, plan to provide the materials at a table that can be visited by small groups or individuals. For facilitated programs, consider using an “icebreaker” activity to help the children get to know each other. If stations are set up, it is recommended that an adult or older child is present at each station to serve as a host and to prompt the children's thinking. Station hosts may also demonstrate and/or assist younger children in completing the activity.
    • Prepare and distribute publicity materials for programs based on this activity. If possible, build on the children’s knowledge by offering multiple science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) programs.
    • Pull supporting resources out of circulation to feature during the program. If possible, integrate online videos and website resources into the program. See the Health in Space resource lists for ideas!
    • Review the Beans in Space Facilitator Background Information and Explore! Health in Space Discussion Guide.
    • With a permanent marker, label the low-bounce ball "Earth" and the high-bounce ball "Moon."

The day before the activity

    • Provide the balls and Follow the Bouncing Ball Children's Guide in a bag or bin, or place them at a table so that participants can access them.


1.  Share ideas and knowledge.

  • Introduce yourself. Help the children learn each other’s names (if they don’t know each other already).
  • Use the Explore! Health in Space Discussion Guide to draw participants into the activity and frame the activity with the main message:  Astronauts — and kids! — need to rest, relax, and have fun.
  • Encourage the participants to first predict which ball would bounce higher: a ball dropped on the Earth or on the Moon.

2.  Test how a ball bounces on the Moon compared with on the Earth. Explain that the Earth ball will simulate how a ball bounces on Earth and the other will simulatehow a ball bounces on the Moon. Invite each participant to drop (or gently throw) the “Earth” and “Moon” balls from shoulder height and observe what happens.  

3.  Compare observations and connect them to the “real world.” Prompt the children to use their experiences bouncing the balls to decide whether Olympic athletes would be able to jump higher or not as high on the Moon as on Earth.

4.  Conclude. Summarize that the Moon ball bounced higher and for longer than the Earth ball. This simulates Earth’s greater force of gravity pulling on the ball more than the Moon’s smaller force of gravity. The Moon’s smaller force of gravity offers opportunities for fun!

(These steps are also described in the Children's Guide.)


How Much Would you Weigh on Distant Planets?
Use movies of astronauts walking on the Moon, throwing a discus, jumping, and more from “Activity I - Exploration: Is there any gravity on the Moon?” as conversation-starters about whether or not there is gravity on the Moon.

Last updated
June 22, 2015

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