Make a Balancing Butterfly
In this simple science experiment, kids explore balance and gravity while making a "magic" butterfly that balances on its nose!
Simple explanation: Gravity is a force that pulls everything down toward the center of the earth. An object is balanced when all forces push or pull on it evenly. An object’s “balancing point” is also its “center of gravity;” this is the place where you can hold up an object without it falling over. However, the center of gravity isn’t always in the center of the object -- and that's what makes our butterfly seem to be magic!
More Science: Our bodies stay in balance using three things: our eyes; the muscles in our legs, body and arms; and our inner ear organs. Other animals, such as cats, monkeys and squirrels, also have tails that help them balance.
Sports like snowboarding, gymnastics, surfing, skateboarding and skiing all require a great deal of balance. Also, when you’re riding your bike, it’s your pedaling, your weight and your balance that keep you from falling over. Next time you’re doing any of these things, think about your balance and how gravity is always pulling you down!
- Butterfly template - 1 of this item per class
- Stiff white paper, like cardstock or photo paper - 1 of this item per student
- Scissors - class set - 1 of this item per class
- Pennies - 2 of this item per student
- Markers - class set - 1 of this item per class
- Glue, glue dots or similar - 1 of this item per class
Print the butterfly template onto cardstock and cut out. Balancing Butterfly Printable Note that it is important that the butterfly be cut out evenly or it will be more difficult to balance. Decorate on the side without the Xs, then flip over and glue a penny to each X. Put the head of the butterfly on the end of your finger and allow it to balance.
If doing this as a lesson for a group of kids, demonstrate this at first below eye level so that the children are not able to see the pennies on the underside of the butterfly. Ask the children how they think this works. Next, show the children a cut out butterfly template that does not have the pennies glued on. Why doesn't this one balance on its nose? Ask the children to form a hypothesis.
Now show them the pennies that are glued onto the first butterfly and explain the concept of gravity and center of balance. The spot where the butterfly balances is called the "center of gravity" or "balancing point" -- and it's not necessarily in the middle. Show how this works with other objects as well, such as a spoon or fork. Now help the children make and decorate their own balancing butterflies.