You're familiar with this coiled metal toy. Remember the Slinky song?
Who walks the stairs without a care
It shoots so high in the sky.
Bounce up and down just like a clown.
Everyone knows its Slinky.
But did you know a Slinky can be used to demonstrate inertia, gravity, potential energy, kinetic energy, longitudinal waves, transverse waves, and centrifugal force. The following sites will give you the how and why of using your Slinky for some educational and fun science demonstrations. A resource listing follows with links to videos, books, and an extra long slinky type toy you can purchase.
The science behind a Slinky walking down an incline.
Demonstrate the two basic types of waves, longitudinal and transverse.
Slinky and Centrifugal Force
Slinky in Hand:Making Waves
This exploratorium site goes into more detail about using a Slinky to demonstrate waves.
There is a Newton's Apple show on Slinky Physics. There is a teacher's guide available.
The Slinky physics episode is available at Newton's Apple.
Karol Media has the Headjam series of science videos available free (made possible by ConocoPhillips). The order form requires that the order come from an accredited school or institution or a public library. One of the sections on the video is Slinky Science. This video ties in with the Racing Slink, Slinky Waves, and Slinky and Centrifugal Force links above.
How does a Slinky fall?
Consider a toy Slinky which is held at the top and allowed to hang straight down. If the Slinky is released, will it fall in the same way as a falling ball?
Free Fall: Activities You Can Do at Home
Our heroes are in a dilemma. They've been kidnapped and locked in identical rooms and left with only a radio and three science experiments. One of the rooms is falling down an enormous mine shaft, while the other is in deep space. Their captors have promised to release them if they can tell which is which. Try their three experiments - will your findings help them? One requires a Slinky.
The Case of the Mysterious Red Light
This Nasa 'Why' lesson plan about light includes a Slinky experiment.
Slinky in Space MPG Movie (1.8 MB)
Slinky in Space QuickTime Movie (22MB)
Making Light of Science
To introduce students to the electromagnetic spectrum, focusing on visible light. Students will be introduced to the idea that all light travels as waves, and that wavelength defines the various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Includes a Slinky demonstration.
Waves Light Up the Universe: Slinky booklet
This booklet contains a discussion of the basics of waves and wave motions,which is then followed by two classroom lessons. "Classroom Activity #1: Understanding Waves " is written for the science teacher trying to introduce waves and wave motion to students. "Classroom Activity #2: Do the Wave! Exploring Direct and Indirect Relationships" is for the teacher looking for a fun new way for students to investigate functional relationships.
Comparing Different Forms of Energy
This activity concentrates on energy at rest (potential) and energy on the move (kinetic). Potential energy can change into kinetic energy to create work. You can pick up a book and this is potential, let it go and it is kinetic.
Gravity for the Adventurous
Includes the experiment "Faster than a Falling Slinky" that demonstrates that more forces than gravity alone working on a falling Slinky. Also includes "Slinky Spine" that explains what happens to your spine in free fall.
The Magnetic Field in a Slinky
A solenoid is made by taking a tube and wrapping it with many turns of wire. A metal Slinky is the same shape and will serve as our solenoid. When a current passes through the wire, a magnetic field is present inside the solenoid. Solenoids are used in electronic circuits or as electromagnets.
An Exploration of Vibration, Sound, and Music
Slinky Earth Science
Use a Slinky to model earthquake waves. Learn which waves can cause you to rock and roll, and which can bounce you out of your chair.
The Case of the Shakey Quakey
This NASA 'Why' lesson plan includes a Slinky experiment.
Solar Magnetic Arcade
See this image of a solar flare that resembles a Slinky.
Solar Music - Helioseismology
The sun is filled with sound, and we can learn about its insides by studying this sound. A Slinky helps explain some of the science in solar music.
How do particles move in a magnetic field?
Use a Slinky to understand how particles can move in a magnetic field by gyration.
Magnetic 'Slinky effect' may power aurora
When you've learned how particles move in a magnetic field, you can move on to this article that explains how, "The spectacular aurora borealis displays that light up the northern nights could be powered by a gigantic "Slinky" effect in Earth's magnetic field lines."
Seismic Waves and the Slinky: A Guide For Teachers
This teaching guide is designed to introduce the concepts of waves and seismic waves that propagate within the Earth, and to provide ideas and suggestions for how to teach about seismic waves.
Seismic Waves and the Slinky: Handout
Hooke's Law with a Suspended Slinky (Linear Equations)
Scroll down to part II. The students discover that the slope of the line represents the amount that the spring will stretch if you add one penny at a time. This lab is an example of a linear/inverse relationship since as the number of pennies in the cup increases, the distance from the table decreases.
Websites About Springs
Mechanical Design Guidelines for Springs
Explains Hooke's Law, the basic spring types, and the history of springs.
Springs -- from Eric Weisstein's World of Physics
Springs: Hooke's Law & Elastic Limits
"Hooke's Law" is about stretching springs and wires. When we apply a force to a spring, it stretches. If we apply double the force, it stretches twice as much, so long as we don't overdo it. So far, this is pretty obvious. Now let's look in more detail...
For $9.50 you can purchase an extra long Slinky-style toy.
Science in Seconds with Toys: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less
by Jean Potter
Experience the science of toys and games with these quick, easy experiments and activities from Jean Potter. You can complete each in ten fun-filled minutes or less, and the clear step-by-step instructions and illustrations help you get it right every time. The projects help you learn about everything from why a swing goes higher when you pump your legs to how Silly Putty pulls up comic strips from the newspaper. You will find most of the required materials already in your toy chest, home, backyard, or neighborhood.
The 101 activities in this book cover every aspect of the science of toys and the games you play, including swinging, bouncing, throwing, sliding, and much more. You'll discover why a football spirals as it zips through the air, learn how to make your cereal jump out of the bowl, find out why goggles make you see better underwater, and make your own homemade paint.
Toys in Space: Exploring Science with the Astronauts
by Dr Carolyn Sumners
Will a climber, a flipper flip, a glider glide, a jumper jump, or a Slinky slink? Can an astronaut ring a horseshoe, dunk a basketball, or yoyo "around the world"? The astronauts know...and now you can bring the basic principles of earth and space physics "down to Earth" for kids! On Earth. . .The science is real, the environment is exciting, and the activities are fun. Students build and test toys, experiment, predict what will happen in space, read authentic Astronaut Logs with photos, and even create flipbooks to test their predictions! This comprehensive resource covers 3 Shuttle missions, 11 astronauts; Inexpensive--20 toys can be constructed in the classroom. Another 12 can be purchased for less than $1 each, and the remainder cost less than $5; Content-based and related to your classroom curriculum on: Motion (speed, distance, time, acceleration). . .Forces (gravity, friction, magnetism, circular motion). . .Energy (kinetic, potential, mechanical). . .Space (orbit, weight, weightlessness, and freefall). . .Newton's Laws. Written by Carolyn Sumners, project director of the Toys in Space Program, Johnson Space Center. You choose and emphasize these content connections.
Out of print. Available used.
Toys in Space II Video Guide
Nasa Core - Central Operation of Resources for Educators
Find the Toys in Space videos and kits available for purchase.
TOYchallenge is a chance for teams of imaginative kids in grades 5-8 to create and design a toy or game. The registration is open annually, but the competition is held annually. Famous scientist and writer C.P. Snow said that toys are a great way to learn about science, engineering, and the design process.
Color and Noise! Let's Play with Toys!: Experiments in the Play Room
by Janice Lobb
Color and Noise! Let's Play With Toys explores the play room and clears up everyday mysteries such as: How do magnets work? How does my toy crane work? and Why does clay change shape?
When I started looking into the possibilities of a Slinky antenna, I came across a lot of Web sites and articles that claimed the whole idea of a Slinky antenna is just a myth. Countering these claims, however, I also found a plethora of sites that described everything from a simple antenna with just an alligator clip, to ones that went into extensive detail about how to ground the Slinky for optimum performance.
Slinky® is a registered trademark of Poof-Slinky, Inc.