Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Health in Space

Space Stations - Follow the Bouncing Ball!

Overview

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?

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.

Preparation

Activity

1.  Share ideas and knowledge.

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.)

Extension

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.