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Toy car running down ramp.

Activities C1-5 make up Science in Motion: Design for Safety. First up, look at the need to restrain people and things inside moving vehicles.

Activity C1: Effects of impacts [PDF, 174 KB]

How to use this activity

This activity flows on well from Colossal Collisions B4 Adding Oomph.

What if we were to put an object on top of a vehicle that has a collision?

This idea may prove sensitive for some students who have experienced a crash, however it is also an extension of every young child’s play as they crash toys together or down ramps. Be sensitive to each student throughout this activity.

Extension ideas

After the first two investigations, students are invited to create an investigation to answer their own question. Here are some ideas if needed:

  • What would happen if the vehicle was going faster?
  • What would happen if it was a much heavier vehicle? (use a toy truck or much larger vehicle)
  • What happens to other objects on or in the vehicle? (place smaller objects such as a marble (unrestrained) on top of the vehicle)

Through class discussion, encourage the students to see patterns in the results of their investigations.

Are they able to link speed and mass with the effect of being restrained or not?

Where it fits in the New Zealand Curriculum

Nature of Science strand

Investigating in Science – exploring, predicting, defining, analysing.

  • Science activities can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science sub strands.
  • Identify aspects of Investigating in Science that your students need to get better at or understand more fully.
  • Then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.

NZ Curriculum | Science achievement objectives(external link)

Capability focus

Critique Evidence. 

The five science capabilities (TKI - Science online)(external link)

Contextual strand

Physical World, Achievement Objective: explore, describe and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena, such as movement, forces etc.

Big science idea

An object travelling at a constant speed will remain at a constant speed until acted upon by an unbalanced force.


  • Anything on or in a suddenly stopping vehicle will continue moving at the original speed.

Capability concepts

  • Investigations need to be reliable and robust (control variables, repeat trials).
  • Scientists often ask critical questions about how reliable an investigations method is.
  • Strong claims are made from strong evidence.

Possible learning objectives

The students can…

  • discuss steps taken to make their investigations reliable and robust
  • show the effect of restraining a passenger on or in a moving vehicle
  • identify and describe patterns involving collisions of a passenger in a vehicle.
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