Science: An Elementary Teacher’s Guide/Physics Objectives

Welcome to Unit 2: Physics!


Physics is a fundamental science that underlies chemistry, biology, and astronomy, and is actually an attempt to understand all aspects of the universe. Physics builds a theoretical model of the universe by understanding the smallest pieces and studying how those particles interact. Physics involves the study of matter and its motion and behavior through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), whose laws of motion

and universal gravitation were major milestones in classical physics]]Much of what we think of with physics relates to "classical physics," which was largely developed by Sir Isaac Newton as he made observations about motion and began to understand the force of gravity (he also developed the mathematics of calculus as a way to understand changes in motion). However, modern physics has recognized that Newton's "Laws" do not work in all situations, which has led to advancements such as quantum physics (to study the incredibly small) or Einstein's Theory of Relativity (to study the incredibly vast or incredibly fast).



Our study of physics will include the following:

  1. Objects in motion. Objective: Be able to give examples of each of Newton's Three Laws of Motion, and explore the concept of "force."
  2. Energy, work, power, heat. Objective: Explain different types of energy and transformations between energy types.
  3. Mass, Weight, and Inertia. Objective: Understand inertia and why starting or stopping require more force than maintaining speed.
  4. Air and Water. Objective: Explain basic physical properties of air and water and how they are affected by temperature and composition.
  5. Simple machines. Objective: Understand mechanical advantages and properties of the six classical simple machines and find examples in everyday life.
  6. Light. Objective: Understand the electromagnetic spectrum, the properties of light and color, and explore how fundamental light is to our perceptions of reality.
  7. Sound. Objective: Distinguish between light waves and sound waves, understand how sound is created, transmitted, and perceived.
  8. Electricity and magnetism. Objective: Understand the direct relationship between magnetism and electricity and how to generate one from the other.
  9. Astronomy. Objective: Explore the vastness of the universe and become more familiar with our own solar system and its place in the galaxy.

Getting Started


To help set the stage for our exploration of physics, I recommend watching this video from Khan Academy. I agree with Sal Khan that the most important prerequisite to studying physics is "an open mind, a desire to learn, and a willingness to accept that 90% of what you thought about the universe might be wrong." We may encounter some basic algebra, but don't get intimidated by the math or the jargon--PHYSICS IS PHUN! It can even help you understand how amazing Wonder Woman is for stopping bullets with her bracelets!

Science: An Elementary Teacher’s Guide
Physics Objectives Objects in motion →