Predict Observe Explain Lesson – Projectile Motion


In many introductory physics courses, the effects of air resistance of objects in flight are often ignored in order to make calculations easier.  In reality, air resistance plays a large role in our daily life.  The purpose of this lesson will be to investigate the effects of air resistance on projectile motion in order to determine what factors are at work in generating air resistance.  Using a virtual applet, students will change velocity and drag coefficient to observe how it affects air resistance.  This lesson is a full inquiry lesson because it displayed all the features of inquiry with the following variations: questions-4, evidence-2, analysis-3, explain-1, connection-1, and communication-1. Therefore, overall, the lesson is more self-directed and students-centered and so it is a Guided Inquiry lesson. The main question it seeks to answer is: How do you expect drag coefficient and velocity to affect the range of a projectile?


Any modifications, accommodations, assessment plans and technology integration information will be located in the Lesson plan documents at the bottom of this page.

Students will be able to understand:

  • That there are multiple variables that affect the range of projectiles

Students will be able to know:

  • That air resistance is mathematically represented through the drag coefficient
  • That when there is no air resistance objects travel farther
  • That both the drag coefficient and velocity affects range

Students will be able to do:

  • Perform experiments with multiple variables (applying)
  • Identify qualitative and quantitative information (understanding)
  • Analyze data to determine physical trends (analyzing)
  • Describe drag coefficient (comprehensive)

Please See the Attached Lesson Plan for VA Physics SOLs and NGSS Standards.

Lesson Documents

Air Resistance POE Lesson Plan – This lesson plan lists the standards, learning goals, procedure, and potential modifications to carry out this POE lesson.

Air Resistance POE Student Worksheet – Handout used by students to complete the lesson and engage in the POE model.

Air Resistance POE Instructor Presentation – Presentation that accompanies the lesson plan and supplements instruction.


The POE method is a powerful tool for introducing students to inquiry based learning while also developing their observation and inference skills.  POE allows students to use their observational experiences to develop and refine their scientific inferences in an engaging manner.  Air resistance is particularly conducive to POE because many students have previous notions about the causes of air resistance that can be addressed using the POE model.  This particular topic can be difficult due to the higher level math required in air resistance equations as well as potential misconceptions that students are unwilling to change.  To address this, I would modify the lesson to focus on qualitative relationships and potentially engage in a version of just in time teaching in order to address the misconceptions before the lesson.


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