Presentation at XI IOSTE 2004


Pernilla Nilsson1,2 , Ann-Marie Pendrill3 and Håkan Pettersson4

1Department of Teachers’ Education, Halmstad University,

2National Research School in Science and Technology Education, Linkoping University,

3Physics and Engineering Physics, Gothenburg University,

4School of Information Science-, Computer- and Electrical Engineering, Halmstad University

Abstract. Experiments can be one way to interest pupils in science. Here, we describe experiments that incorporate children’s experiences of the body in a setting outside the classroom and shared with teacher students. Pre- and post-tests show that children recalled a number of significant observations concerning the concepts of gravity and inertia. In interviews after the event, the children had a chance to reflect on their experiences. Their responses are analysed and categorised with a socio-cultural approach of learning.



Too often we hear that pupils are not interested in science and technology. This might be the fact regarding to how the subjects can be taught in school, but in everyday life we know by experiences that small children really have an interest in science, although this interest decreases sometimes when they get older. By introducing for example physics in early ages, pupils might develop a more positive attitude. The aim of this paper is to introduce a way to open the exciting world that physics offers. We describe how children aged 10 years experience and discuss the phenomena of gravity and inertia and according to that, how they develop their conceptual understanding in mechanics in the context of amusement park rides, combined with preparatory experiments in the university. We also discuss factors that affect learning, and experience as a way of improving conceptual learning. How do children express and discuss their experiences of inertia gained in the rides and how do children explore their concepts of inertia and gravity during the project?

For Newton, inertia was an internal kind of force quite distinct from the externally applied one which resulted in a change of velocity (Gunstone, Watts, 1985). It is Newton’s laws that form the basis of school physics of today. The phenomenon of force, the formula F=ma (force=mass x acceleration) is what pupils normally work with in their physics lessons. An understanding of this formula is made more difficult, if it contrasts with pupils’ intuitive conceptions of motion. The fact that school physics often works with formulas and laws that pupils have to memorize and adopt, might be a reason why a lot of pupils regard physics as a boring subject.

Children’s conceptions and misconceptions in physics

One way of building up knowledge is by experimental learning where children are able to investigate a phenomenon by themselves and out of that to construct their knowledge. The role of the teacher is to offer situations stimulating the child’s own constructive processes, and that make them build up their conceptions in a concrete and understandable way. Every child has her own perception and knowledge of the world surrounding her and to that, learning might be related. The American psychologist Ausubel (1968) emphasized the importance of proceeding from things children already know. Children’s pre-knowledge makes a ground on which to build new conceptions. New experiences have to be interpreted by earlier knowledge and conceptions remaining common lines of importance (Marton et al; 2000). In other words it is important to combine children’s experiences with new conceptions to be learned. By making children formulate problems and make experiments to confirm their hypothesis, they might be conscious of their way of thinking and understanding, and in that way they build up a deeper conceptual understanding.

The special environment where science is taught in school may be one important factor that affects children’s attitudes towards physics. For a lot of children, school context is their first meeting with science. Lave (1997) discusses the theory of situated learning in a cognitive point of view. Learning in practice depends on several factors where the learning context is the most important. By making it possible for children to discover science phenomena in their environment, learning might be experienced in a positive, concrete and meaningful way. Several educationalists are convinced that new ways and methods in science teaching have to be explored (Carlgren, 1999). By making children a part of the teaching situation and by offering them a varied learning context, their motivation and interest will increase, which will result in an increased knowledge.

In a large number of studies of children’s conceptions of natural phenomena, no content area has received more attention than the one described by "force and motion" (Driver et al, 1985). Children often talk about objects in terms of having a living force and describe why a freely moving object should stop by saying that it wanted to. A theory that explained the force concept was Buridan´s Impetus theory where the maintaining force was the "impetus", an internal source of force which the stone was given when thrown. The force pushes the stone until it is used up. Some of the misconceptions discussed about force and motion is for example that force has to do with living things and that constant motion requires a constant force. Other misconceptions are that the amount of motion is proportional to the amount of force and that if a body is not moving there is no force acting on it. Driver et al. (1994) summarize some main ideas of pupils’ thoughts about the relationship between force and motion:

• If there is a motion there is force acting

• If there is no motion, there is no force acting

• There can not be a force without motion

• When an object is moving, there is a force in the direction of its motion

• A moving objects stops when its force is used up

• A moving object has a force within it which keeps it going

• A constant speed results from a constant force

Children are not consistent in their beliefs about the forces acting on objects at rest and objects in motion. Being aware of children’s ideas teachers will be able to find new ways to explore their teaching methods.

Learning through communication and actions

"The key principle of learning as a school community is to build instruction on children’s interests in a collaborative way – learning activities are planned by children as well as adults…" (Rogoff, 2001, p. 33). Children are natural learners as long as they can get deeply involved in activities which they help to devise and in which they see a purpose. In this study, the collaborative way is built up between children in a group, the teacher students and the environment where learning takes place. Learning is not a process itself, placed somewhere, but it is to participate in a social practice and every practice has its own routines. Learning is situated differently where actions and communication are important factors. In this paper we have a socio-cultural approach where we study learning as a communicative practice based on experiences. The focus is on how children discuss and explain different phenomena related to experiences in the amusement park. Communities can be defined as groups of people who have something in common and have continuing organization, values, understanding, history and practice (Rogoff, 2003). This paper is about children ten years old entering the community of physics through their own experiences. The ambition is to document some of the features of the discourse that emerge in response to this entering. Social activities are always dialogical in the sense that they emerge in response to other people, institutional traditions (Rogoff, 2001). Language and actions are considered as primary tools for shared thinking and for establishing understanding in social interaction. Therefore children’s expressions of their experiences will be a tool for analyzing their learning processes.


Ten years old children experiencing phenomena of mechanics

In September 2003, a class of 23 ten-year old children experienced Newton's laws in rides in the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg, Sweden, together with seven teacher students from Halmstad University. The class is a part of a project called Journey of Knowledge, initiated at Halmstad University and the aim of that project is to make children experience science early in school, and from that inspire them to scientific thinking. An additional aim is to help student develop a deeper understanding through their contact with children’s learning. The class joining the project at Liseberg had been a part of the project only for some weeks. The class had not been participated the Journey of Knowledge before, which means that this was their first meeting with science teaching in the project.

An amusement park can be seen as a large hands-on physics laboratory that provides excellent demonstrations of textbook examples on e.g. acceleration, rotation and free-falling bodies. Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden, is Scandinavia's largest amusement park, providing a wide variety of experimental possibilities and exciting learning rides. About 9000 school children (mostly aged 12-19) have participated in experimental activities at Liseberg during the years 2000-2004. Due to our earlier experiences in the Liseberg project we know that the physics learning outcome in the amusement park context depends on how well children are prepared for the visit. To learn more about children’s ideas and possible learning in connection with these tours, the group of ten-year old children studied in this project was invited to Halmstad University a few days before the tour to Liseberg. The seven students accompanying the children had discussed and prepared a number of experiments related to the rides to be experienced at Liseberg. Before starting the experiments, the children were given a pre-test with questions about phenomena, such as gravity, forces, inertia and speed. The experimental stations handled mainly gravity, inertia, rotation, mass and velocity. The students made some demonstrations where they, for example, dropped different objects with different masses. They then asked the children to observe which object hit the ground first.

In the amusement park children were divided into groups of about six children and carried out experiments in predetermined rides. The experimental materials that children bring in the rides are slinky, water cups, cuddly toys in a string and protractors. The physical phenomena that one experiences in the chosen rides are forces, acceleration, speed and inertia. By making different experiments and observations in the rides, children will have experienced phenomena with their eyes and bodies. In the following we discuss some of the main attractions that relates to inertia.

The Space Shot is a very high tower where you sit in a small chair with your legs hanging down. Suddenly it accelerates vertically with an acceleration of 3 g. The children bring a small cup of water in the ride to observe what happens to the water when they turn at the top. They also bring a slinky to observe what happens with it during the ride. After the ride they were asked what happened with their bodies when they reached the top, and what happened to the water. The children were also asked to observe what happened to the slinky in the vertical acceleration.

The Bumper Cars illustrate a horizontal acceleration. The children brought a cuddly toy in a string to observe its movement when they collided with another car. The children were also supposed to describe what happened to their bodies in the collision. In the Roller-Coaster, the children were also told to observe what happens to the water and the slinky that they brought on board, and of course to feel what happens to their bodies. The Turbo Drop is a ride where you go slowly up 80 meters in the air and after that you experience for a short moment an acceleration of 2g downwards– twice as large as free fall. Also here the children brought their slinky and cup of water to observe what happens.

In the Wave Swinger, which is a carousel with swings on long chains, the children are supposed to feel the impact of the centripetal force on their bodies. They also brought their pendulums (cuddly toys on a string) to observe it. Alternatively, they could bring a cup of water to study the surface of the water. As the carousel rotates, the swings hang out from the vertical, thereby enabling the chains to provide the force giving the required centripetal acceleration, while still counteracting the force of gravity. In the rotating Liseberg Tower, the children brought their cuddly toys on a string and are told to set it in motion and to observe it as it continues to swing in the same direction, independent of the rotation of the tower. During the rotation of the tower, the children observed in what direction their pendulums swung. The aim of the experiment is to understand how it is possible to detect rotation. In the interviews that followed this project, children showed surprise in that the cuddly toy was pointing in the same direction, even when the tower was rotating. For example the experiments in the park include a miniature version of Foucault's classical experiment demonstrating that the earth rotates around its axis.

As children brought slinkies, they had to reflect on why the slinky was extended when it was held still, and why this extension changed during the ride. Children were also supposed to think of what would happen if, for example, a chain in the wave swinger would go off. During the tour, students asked questions before the rides, e.g. "What do you think is going to happen? ", "Where do you feel most heavy and where do you feel the lightest?" or "How did your body move when you collide with another bumper car?" Also, the teacher students carried out short interviews with the children after every ride to collect impressions.

After the Liseberg visit the two teacher students participating in "The journey of knowledge" were following up the experiments during a lesson. The children were supposed to discuss several questions related to their experiences and observations at the amusement-park.

During the weeks after, children were interviewed about their learning and experiences during the rides. They also conducted a post-test after two months to evaluate if they had changed their conceptions of mechanics during the project. The post-test contained the same questions as the pre-test. Also the teacher students were interviewed about their learning in physics during the project. They made a part of a test Hestenes et al (1992) revealing their conceptual understanding of mechanics. A deeper study of students’ conceptual learning of mechanics by using an amusement park as a curricular activity will be presented in another article.


The methods for analyzing children’s learning and experiences in the amusement park context consist of a pre- and post test, qualitative interviews of eleven children, the children’s own narratives of their experiences from the day at Liseberg and a second post-test to clarify some questions connected to inertia. The pre- and post test were constructed not only to analyze children’s conceptions of gravity and inertia, but also to evaluate their understanding of moving, falling and rotating bodies.

Pre-test and post-test

To get an insight into some of the children’s pre-conceptions of phenomena like gravity, rotation, speed and inertia, the children made a pre-test when coming to Halmstad University for the preparing experiments some days before the Liseberg visit. Questions as "Why doesn’t the moon fall down on the earth?" and "Which ball hits the ground first, the lightest or the heaviest?", "What happens to your body when you go very fast in a merry-go-round", "What happens to your body when you collide with your friend in the bumper car?" and "Why does the heaviest ball hit the ground first when you drop it", were asked.

The post-test was made two months after the Liseberg visit and it consisted of the same questions as the pre-test. To enlarge our empirical material of children’s experiences and explanations of the phenomenon of inertia, we made another post-test three months after the Liseberg visit. In this test we asked questions as "Try to describe the feeling in your body when you went up in the space-shot", "Make a drawing of what happens if a chain in the wave- swinger goes off" and "Why did your body move forward when you collided with some one in the bumper car? " By using this other post-test we could confirm the different categories of explanation children used to express their experiences. As not every child made both pre-and post-test, we could only analyze 22 of the tests.

Interviews and children’s narratives

During the day at Liseberg, the children discussed their experiences and their observations with each other and also with the teacher students. Some of these discussions were taped for analysis in connection to the interviews. The 23 children also made narratives where they were supposed to write their stories about how they experienced their day at Liseberg, what they remembered and what they learned. By making narratives, children were able to express things and thoughts in their own way, not being guided by different questions. Children were very satisfied with the amusement park visit and they also described that the aim of the day was not only to have fun, but also to learn physics. Children made comments such as: "The aim of the day was to learn how everything works…a merry-go-round and that stuff", "We were there for making research about physics" and "I didn’t know that it was possible to learn physics at Liseberg". The observation that the pendulum (cuddly toy on a string) continued moving in the same direction while the tower was rotating was one of the best experiences remembered of all the experiments during the day. In 90 % of the spontaneous letters from the children, they mentioned this observation in one way or another. The explanation of this might be that the children didn’t expect that result of their observation.

In addition, qualitative interviews were performed with twelve of the children. The interviews contained open questions focused on inertia about their experiences in the different rides with questions probing their ability to express and explain observations and experiences. The interviews focused on children’s expressions and explanations of inertia.


This paper is about a study of learning in experienced and communicative practice. The issue is about how children discuss and out of the discussions express their experiences of different phenomena related to rides in an amusement park. In the amusement park context, children enter situations which make them think and reflect over experiences and observations. By discussing phenomena as gravity, forces, inertia and acceleration in the amusement park context with each other and with the students they will challenge their previous conceptions. The dialogue is an important part of this challenge. Language and actions are considered as primary tools for shared thinking and for establishing understanding in social interaction. Human development is a process of people’s changing participation in sociocultural activities of their communities (Rogoff, 2003). By participating in social and cultural activities, people develop and explore their identities and knowledge.

In our analysis we used the pre- and post-tests to see if and how children’s conceptions had changed during the project. All the interviews were transcribed and the questions connected to expressions and observations of the phenomenon of inertia were chosen out for the categorization. The variation in the explanations formed the basis for further analysis. We don’t find it possible for a child 10 years old to describe Newton’s laws in a correct physical way. Therefore in our analysis we have called an answer that contributes to these laws as to a Newtonian explanation. Our interest was to investigate if they managed to observe the inertia and in that case how they explained their experiences of inertia by relating it to the feeling of their own bodies. Therefore the categories that was created out of the empirical data depended on the if and the how in the questions above.

Pre-tests and post-tests

Most of the children had never been in contact with the physics curriculum before. Therefore a pre-test makes a good picture of children’s pre-conceptions at the moment of the experiments. We have analyzed the children’s answers in the pre- and post tests according to how they describe and explain the phenomena of gravity and inertia, and also how they manage to connect these phenomena with their experiences in the rides. The two chosen questions for the phenomenon of gravity were: "Why does a ball fall to the ground when you drop it?" and "Which ball hits the ground first, the lightest or the heaviest?" Only 5 of the 20 children relate gravity to falling bodies in the pre-test and none of the children knew that the balls hit the ground at the same time. Some of them showed that they knew that a gravitational force has an effect of dropped objects and that this force is smaller on the moon. The children were not able to explain what effect the gravitational force had on objects of different weights. 11 of the 20 children answered that the ball falls to the ground because it is heavy, and four of the children gave explanations as for example "Because of oxygen" and "I don’t know".

After the project, 17 of the 20 children relate the falling ball to gravity and 18 of the children refer to the observation that the balls hit the ground at the same time (table 1). This proves that children’s conceptions changed, only by the fact that they saw the balls hit the ground at the same time. This result may contradict those of (Finegold, Gorsky, 1991) who discussed the difficulties in changing children’s conceptions.



Table1. Summary of children’s answers of pre- and post-tests connected to gravity.

Pre-test n=21 (n=number of children made the test)

Post-test n=20

n=9 Heavy – the heaviest ball hits the ground first

Gravity – The same time

n=5 Gravity – the heaviest ball hits the ground first

Gravity – The same time

n=1 Heavy – The ping-pong ball

Heavy – Falls the same

n=1 Earth is a magnet

The earth pulls down, gravity

n=1 Because of oxygen - the heaviest ball hits the ground first

Doesn’t mention gravity - same time

n=1 Heavy – I don’t know

Gravity, Earth pulls them down – the same time

n=1 I don’t know - the heaviest ball hits the ground first

Gravity – The same time

n=1 Falls down - the heaviest ball hits the ground first


The question used to evaluate children’s conceptions of inertia was: "What happens to your body when you collide with your friend in the Bumper-Car?" The results of the post-tests show that children seem to have adopted Newton’s first law while explaining their experiences in the bumper cars. Pre-conceptions e.g. "If a body is not moving there is no force acting on it", and "Constant motion requires a constant force" were common even among the ten years old children. The pre-test showed that 13 of the 21 children could not answer the evaluation question related to inertia. 7 of 21 answered that the body is going forward, but only one of them tried to explain why the body was going forward. For the children making the post-test (n=20), 17 said that their bodies were moving forward, and 11 of the children explain inertia in a Newtonian way, with an explanation like "My body was used to the speed and when the car stopped, my body wanted to continue forward". 3 of the children didn’t answer the question. In the post-test two 13 of the 18 children that made the test argues a Newtonian explanation of why their bodies goes forward in the collision with the cars.

Table 2. Summary of children’s answers of pre- test (n=21), post-tests 1 (n=20) and post-test 2 (n=18) according to inertia.


Post-test 1

Post-test 2

I don’t know

Forward - my body wanted to continue


Forward – I am pushed

Forward – my body wanted to continue

Feeling, Newton

Goes forward –

Goes forward - my body wanted to continue


Forward and backward

Forward – my body wanted to continue


I don’t know

No answer


I don’t know

Goes forward – no explanation


Forward and backward

Forward and backward


Forward and backward

Forward and backward - my body wanted to continue

Feeling, Newton

Forward and backward

Going forward



Going forward


Forward and backward

Going forward – my body is used to


You go to the side

Going forward


Goes fast

Going forward – my body wanted to continue

Feeling, Newton

I don’t know



Flows back

Forward and backward - my body wanted to continue

Feeling, Newton

I want a revenge

Going forward


I don’t know

No answer


I don’t know

Going forward – my body is used

Feeling, Newton

I don’t know

No answer


Forward and backward

Forward – my body is used to


Very small collusion


Feeling/ Newton






In the analysis of the interviews we describe the variation of children’s discussions and expressions of their experiences in the rides. We ask the children what they feel and how they are able to describe and explain the feeling. The discussions during the day on Liseberg between children and between children and teacher students have enlarged the empirical material of the interviews. We have categorized the answers depending on their observations and their expressions. We separated the categories between if the children were able to make observations, if they were able to explain their observations and if their explanations of inertia contributed to a feeling of the body or to a Newtonian explanation. In the interviews we looked at children's drawings to figure out their understanding of inertia in the wave Springer. On the question in the interviews about "what happens if a chair is falling off its chain?", children were supposed to make a picture. The reason of using drawing is that it is sometimes more easy to discuss a question like that by drawing the intended observation. In this case the answers and explanations varied a lot. By using the pre- and posttest, discussions and the qualitative interviews we can interpret different ways of expressing the law of inertia and relate them to the categories described as follows (table 3).

Table 3. Children’s expressions in the different categories according to their experiences


Answer Children

Space Shot,

Turbo Drop,

Roller Coaster

Answer Children

Bumper Cars

Answer Children

Liseberg Tower

Answer Children


Expressions related to a feeling in the body – no observation

"When I came up to the top I felt as I had butterflies in my stomach", "It was scary because it was so high", "I wanted to jump"

"I felt a strange feeling in my body as I was pushed forward" "I felt uncomfortable"

"The cuddly toy in the spring turned around and we couldn’t see anything."

"The first time I just wanted to get out…I felt sick" "I have butterflies in my stomach and I feel dizzy when I went out"

Expressions related to observations

"The water flew out of the cup when reaching the top", "When I go up my slinky was long".

"I felt as my body was going to flew out of the car"

"The cuddly toy in the spring turned back and forward against the thing that that we pointed it to"

"The water was at the same angle as we"

Expressions related to an observation with an incomplete explanation

"I am very light; therefore I am lifted up when I go downwards" "My body would continue upwards in the Space shot because it wouldn’t have time to stop"

"The body goes forward because you don’t have time to stop" "My body goes forward because it is not strong enough"

"My body continues forward because there is a force pushing me"

"The cuddly toy in the string turned back and forward at the Ullevi but I don’t know why"

"The cuddly toy is pointing in the same direction all the time"

"I would fall down when my body realises that it stopped" "My body was pushed out", "If the string goes off I will go in the same direction as the string"

Expressions related to correct observation with a Newtonian explanation

"My body was used to that velocity, therefore it wanted to continue"

"We continued forward when the car stopped because if you have a certain velocity at the beginning you want to continue with that velocity even if the car stops".

My body wanted to go with that velocity because it was used to it"

"The pendulum went back and forward against the initial thing. It is not the cuddly toy that rotates…just the tower" "It continued in the same direction - it wanted to" "The cuddly toy didn’t feel that it was rotating, it was just me who was holding that felt it"

"The wave swinger will continue straight ahead and then fall down because of the gravity" "The swinger the longest from centre goes the fastest because it has longer way to rotate.

In the interviews and in the tests some of the children expressed their experiences in a way related to a feeling, as for example "I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach" and "I felt dizzy". These answers we placed in the category "Expressions related to a feeling in the body". These children did not account for their observations, but connected their experiences to feelings like joy and fear. A feeling inside the body must not be connected to an observation, but instead to an experience. This category was not very well represented.

In the second category we placed the "Expressions that were related to observations". In this category we find children that are able to make observations during the rides, but still have difficulties in explaining their observations. Children account for what they observe, slinky is getting longer, water is getting out and the cuddly toy is moving forward. In this category children do not even try to associate their observations to physical explanation of the phenomenon of inertia.

In the third category we placed the answers that were composed of "Expressions related to an observation with an incomplete explanation". In this category children expressed their observations but they did not manage to give a complete explanation of why for example the slinky was pulled put, and why the water continued. A comment in this category was one that seemed as being taken out of a comic "My body would continue upwards in the Space shot because it had not the time to stop. I would fall down again when my body has time to realize that it has stopped". Children in this category have obviously observed that something happens to their bodies, they can feel the law of inertia but they can not make a correct explanation.

The fourth category, "Expressions related to correct observation with a Newtonian explanation", is the category we found as the most scientific as children manage to make observations and also manage to give an explanation in a, what we call a Newtonian way. Regarding that this study involves ten years old children, a Newtonian explanation might be overambitious. Discussing the results, we defined an answer like: "The body wants to continue forward, even if you stop the car" as a Newtonian. Even in physics courses at Universities, students explain the phenomenon of inertia the same way. Children uses the words my body wants to, my body is used to… in the same way as teacher students do.

Most of the spontaneous comments showed that children were able to provide explanations for observed natural phenomena, which is the central aim of science (Driver et al, 1996). The children also made interesting comments on inertia from their observations of for example the slinky. They observed that it got very long when accelerating up in the Space-Shot, and also in the Turbo-Drop when they turned the slinky up-side down while falling down. They were surprisingly correct in their observations despite of the special situation in which the experiments took place. When going up in the Space Shot the water continues out of the cup due to inertia. The children that managed to observe this phenomenon were very convincing in their explanations of why. In the interviews they were also able to discuss the connections between the movements of the slinky and the effects of the gravity.


Normally in primary school, pupils don’t work a lot with physics. Still, as we have seen in this study, children ten years of age are ready for learning physics and even discuss their observations in a "scientific" way. By experiencing Newton’s laws in an amusement park context, it is possible for ten years old children to describe their experiences by using concepts of physics. In our categories we find different ways of explaining and expressing the phenomenon of inertia. We found that most of the children were able to describe their experiences in a Newtonian way by using an Impetus theory. In the socio-cultural approach of learning, the discussion and dialog are important tools for learning when using a discursive approach to cognition. In our study the children seem quite competent in recreating the conceptual distinctions between gravity and inertia when discussing it during the interviews and after the rides. Children and teacher students participate in a situated practice, where the reflection and observations were discussed through particular linguistic and due to physical resources.

In this context children have experienced physics in a special environment. By discussing experienced feelings in the rides, recalling experiences in interaction with the teacher students and their friends we hope they will develop an initial knowledge of mechanics. Through the project we have experienced that the children have developed a positive attitude to physics, and therefore we hope that they, in their future life, will become interested in entering the community of physics. In the interviews, children answered that the reason why we should go to Liseberg was to learn physics and to learn how things work. The 23 children will never forget their day at Liseberg where most of them made experiments in physics for the first time. By relating these experiments to the joy they felt at Liseberg, where they participated in concrete, specific and meaningful situations, they might have started a learning process that hopefully will continue.

Several research results show that children’s misconceptions in for example mechanics are very convincing (Clement, 1982, Driver et. al, 1985, 1995, Watts, D 1983, Osborne, R.J 1980). Children don’t know, and some do not even believe in the principles of Newton. To demonstrate e.g. gravity to the children by making concrete experiments, as shown in this work, might offer a way to increased understanding. Therefore the context of an amusement park must not be an isolated case, but a way to open the world of learning mechanics for children as well as for university students. Through the Liseberg project, children, students and teachers explore concepts of mechanics in the amusement park. Instead of observing the dynamometer in the class-room context, children will feel the gravity and acceleration with their own bodies. The experienced feelings of the body might be a way to concretise phenomena as force, motion and inertia, and by that a deeper learning in mechanics can be sustained.


In this paper our research questions were "how do children express and discuss their experiences of inertia gained in the rides?" and "how do children explore their concepts of inertia and gravity during the project?" We have a socio-cultural aspect of learning as we are interested in how they express their experiences, but also a constructivist perspective by analyzing their developed knowledge of gravity and inertia, compared to their pre-knowledge.

In our study we find a difference between the results of the pre- and post-tests related to gravity and inertia. We also find that after being at Liseberg, the children were able to connect their experiences to Newton’s laws and actually to express them in a Newtonian way.

We see that this is an example of making children enter the community of science in a positive way. By offering learning situations that motivates children, the learning of physics may not be a problem. By showing children that physics is interesting and stimulating, it might be possible to guide them into the fascinating world of science in general, and physics in particular.


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Key-words: Informal learning, physics, experiences, children