Experiment of the Month

Foucault Pendulum Lesson Plans for General Science

The previous discussion of the Foucault Pendulum was intended for use as a supplement to AP physics. This edition is intended for general science students whose technical skills are not as extensively developed as AP physics students. The plans were developed by Maureen Dooley, B.S.Ed. They are presented here with permission of the author.

The eleven plan sequence is intended to develop first the idea that there is a question: Does the earth move or is the earth fixed? Evidence is developed and tested with earth-fixed and earth-spinning models. A discussion of the overall picture is provided here.

The Foucault pendulum is observed throughout the sequence. In lesson 4, the class begins keeping a log which leads to the observation that the plane of oscillation of the pendulum is rotating clockwise. In the final "jury trial," the motion of the Foucault pendulum is conclusive in favor of a spinning earth as the simplest model that works.

The plans, as well as two worksheets and a vocabulary are listed below.

  1. Rather than explain, science describes.
  2. The simple pendulum and the driven pendulum
  3. The pendulum is driving in a manner that is like pumping a swing.
  4. The Foucault pendulum plane of oscillation rotates.
  5. Motion is relative.
  6. Models for a rotating plane of oscillation
  7. The Foucault pendulum at the north pole
  8. Build a sundial.
  9. Track the sun with the sundial.
  10. Apply the models to the sundial observations.
  11. Apply the models to the foucault pendulum.
  12. Vocabulary