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Dancing with Science: Teaching Physics through Dance


Lesson Plan: Dance Lab - Exploring Physics Through Dance

Objective: The objective of this lesson is for students to learn and understand the principles of physics through dance. Students will work in groups to conduct experiments related to dance movements, measure and compare data, develop hypotheses, analyze results, and create a dance routine that demonstrates the principles of physics.

Duration: This lesson is designed to be completed in one or two class periods, depending on the availability of time and the complexity of the experiments.

Common Core Standards: PS2.A: Forces and Motion 


  • Measuring tape

  • Stopwatch or timer

  • Recording sheets for data collection

  • Writing materials for hypothesis, data recording, and conclusion

  • Dance space or studio


Introduction and Group Formation (20 minutes)

Discuss: Tell me what you think the connection is between dance and physics. 

  • Explain that dancers often utilize physics principles to enhance their movements and performances.

Ask: Can you think of any examples of how physics concepts, such as force, motion, and energy, are present in dance?

  • Talk about how understanding these concepts could help improve your dancing. 

  • Introduce the concept of the Dance Lab and explain that students will be conducting experiments to explore the physics behind various dance movements.

  • Optional: you could show YouTube videos of vertical jumps, pirouettes, and plie leaps to help prepare students. 

Do: Divide the students into three groups and assign each group one of the following tasks:

  • Task 1: Measure/compare the height of dancers who perform vertical jumps with and without moving their arms.

  • Task 2: Measure the speed of dancers who perform pirouettes with their arms out and their arms in a tight circle.

  • Task 3: Measure the distance of dancers who perform leaps with and without a plie first.

Say: When you’re finished with this task, you’ll be working together to create a short dance routine that demonstrates at least 3 principles of physics.

  • Write a list of well-known principles to help students come up with ideas. Here are some words you could include:

    • Newton's Laws of Motion

    • Gravity 

    • Power 

    • Force 

    • Mass 

    • Weight 

    • Energy/Conversion 

    • Light 

    • Heat

  • You can provide resources to help remind them what the selected physics principles mean.

Do: Provide each group with specific instructions for their assigned task. Make sure they understand how to measure the relevant variables. Allow them to choose who is dancing, and remind them to take safety precautions.

Dance Experiment (45-60 minutes)

The following are reminder prompts you can say during the class to keep groups on task:

Say: In your groups, you should be creating a hypothesis about the outcome you expect from your experiment.

  • Encourage them to consider the relationship between the physics principles they are exploring and the dance movements they observed.

Say: At this point, you should be conducting your experiment, measuring and recording the relevant data, and making observations.

  • Encourage students to collaborate, share responsibilities, and support each other during the data collection process.

Say: You should be finishing up your experiment and moving on to analyzing the data and comparing it to your initial hypothesis.

  • Have them discuss and interpret their findings as a group, noting any patterns or relationships they observe.

Discuss: I’d love to hear what your groups learned from this experiment and your takeaway!

  • Allow the groups to briefly share their findings with the class. 

Dance Routine and Presentation (35-50 minutes)

Say: Groups that are finished with their experiments should be moving on to your collaborative dance routine. 

  • Walk around the classroom and encourage the students. If some don’t feel comfortable performing, that’s okay. Instead, encourage them to take the lead on including the scientific elements. 

Say: Okay, it’s time to show off what you’ve done!  

  • Give each group the opportunity to present their dance routine to the class.

  • As each group performs, have the other students observe and identify the demonstrated physics principles.

Discuss: Facilitate a class discussion after each routine to discuss the physics concepts showcased and their connection to the movements.


Reflection and Discussion (10 minutes)

Discuss: Lead a class reflection on the lesson, allowing students to share their thoughts on the connection between dance and physics.

Ask: How can understanding physics change the way we dance? 

Assignment: For homework tonight, you’ll each write a conclusion summarizing your group’s experiment, findings, and whether their hypothesis was supported or disproven. You can also include your thoughts on the collaborative dances. These conclusions should be 300 to 500 words. 

Written by Rachel Jones
Education World Contributor
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