All Resources

Tug o’ War

In this activity, students play tug o' war to experience the push-pull of forces, exploring Newtons' Third Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Formally stated, Newton's third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

According to Newton, whenever objects A and B interact with each other, they exert forces upon each other. When you sit in your chair, your body exerts a downward force on the chair and the chair exerts an upward force on your body. There are two forces resulting from this interaction - a force on the chair and a force on your body. These two forces are called action and reaction forces and are the subject of Newton's third law of motion.

In this activity, the rope is the means to transfer forces. The first team to tug is the action force, causing the pull on the rope, as the reaction force , the other teams rope end "feels" the pull. IF the second team initiates a pull, this is a second action force!

Objectives

  • Understand the concept of action and reaction forces.

Materials

  • Per Group:
    long rope (3-5m, dependent on participant numbers
    handkerchief (to tie in the middle)

Key Questions

  • When the other team pulled against you, did you feel the opposite reaction?

What To Do

  1. Split students into two teams.
  2. Each team pulls as hard as they can to try to make the other team fall or pull the handkerchief over a designated line.
  3. Last team standing wins.

Extensions

  • What are some science-based strategies you can use to make your team win?

Other Resources

How Stuff Works| Newton’s Laws of Motion