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Einstein Revealed

Ideas from Teachers

(Gr. 5-6)
To explain how time and space are not absolute.


  • wall clock

Ask students to tell you what time the would see if they rode the beam of light away from the clock displaying the current time.

The obvious answer is that they will always see the same image of the clockface unchanged—that the time will have "stopped."

This is precisely how Einstein came up with the idea. He was riding a tram home and looking out the back at the clock face on the Bern, Switzerland, City Hall clock tower. The time was 6 o'clock. He realized that if he were riding the beam of light carrying the image of the clockface at 6 o'clock, it would always be 6 o'clock!

Sent in by
Andy Mickel
Pratt Elementary
Minneapolis, MN

(Gr. 6-9)
To investigate the m (mass) from E = mc2


  • scale
  • bubble gum


  1. Place three pieces of wrapped bubble gum on a scale. Determine the mass of your gum in grams and record the mass.

    before chewing ________________ grams

  2. Unwrap the gum (save your wrapper). Chew the gum for 10 minutes.

  3. Take the wad of gum out of your mouth place it on the original wrappers and determine the mass again. Record the mass.

    after chewing ________________ grams

  4. Does the chewed gum have less mass, the same mass, or more mass than the gum that had not been chewed? Why? If there was a change, what was it due to?

Lab Results: Sugarless gum will increase in mass due to the addition of saliva. Regular gum will decrease in mass due to sugar dissolving.

You can evaluate student performance during the lab and check the written response to the lab questions.

Classroom Tips
Try the same type of gum with your class or different kinds of gum.

Sent in by
Scott Barber
Roehm Middle School
Berea, OH

(Gr. 9-12)
To connect the concepts of energy and mass as jumping off point for the study of chemistry, to show how scientific theory is not just the developed by one person alone but builds up the work of many others, and to demonstrate how science is affected by the time period it is being conducted in.


This is part of the unit on the science of chemistry where students learn about the scientific method, significant figures, lab safety, and matter. Students have a test of the previously stated concepts. Then they begin learning about energy.

  1. Have students read the section in the book related to energy and assign homework to answer the section review questions.

  2. Review the homework in class and clarify students' ideas about what energy is through classroom discussion.

  3. Introduce The Building of Ideas: Matter and Energy assignment. Distribute the worksheet.

  4. Organize students into six groups, one for each category covered in the program. Have each group choose a slip of paper that states the category group members will take notes on. Direct students to set up their notes and prepare the video for viewing.

  5. Have students watch the video and take notes on their section.

  6. After viewing the video, have students gather into their groups and compile a list of notes about their particular category and present to the class. During the presentations have other students take notes.

  7. Have students then work in the computer lab individually to construct a time line of scientists, concepts, and historical events (requires some research on the Internet for births/ deaths and such).

  8. Ask students to write a five-paragraph essay answering the following question: What evidence accumulated between 1905 and the present day about energy and mass that turned Einstein's hypothesis into scientific truth?

For Team Presentation—see the NHS Oral Communication & Independent and Collaborative Work Skills rubrics

Content-specific rubric
Rubric for time line
Rubric for essay

Overall Scoring:
Team Presentations _______ * .10 = _______
Timeline _______ * .30 = _______
Essay _______ * .50 = _______
NHS Writing Rubric _______ * .10 = _______
Final Score _______

Classroom Tips
Making students choose their category randomly can save a lot of headaches.

Sent in by
James Gorman
Northbridge High School
Whitinsville, MA

(Gr. 9-12)
I celebrate Einstein's birthday on March 14 with my students.

We watch NOVA's "Einstein Revealed" program, complete a PhysicsQuest, and eat cakes or other food with Einstein's face as the motif. This is a very popular activity that has become at tradition at our school.

Please see the Web pages below for more information:

Einstein PhysicsQuest

Einstein's Cakes

Einstein's Birthday

Sent in by
Dolores Gende
Holy innocents' Episcopal School
Atlanta, GA

(Gr. 9-12)
Massachusetts Introductory Physics Learning objectives:

  • Interpret and apply Newton's three laws of motion.

  • Interpret and provide examples that illustrate the law of conservation of energy.

  • Provide and interpret examples showing that linear momentum is the product of mass and velocity, and is always conserved (law of conservation of momentum). Calculate the momentum of an object.

  • Recognize that moving electric charges produce magnetic forces and moving magnets produce electric forces. Recognize that the interplay of electric and magnetic forces is the basis for electric motors, generators, and other technologies.

  • Recognize that electromagnetic waves are transverse waves and travel at the speed of light through a vacuum.

  • Describe the electromagnetic spectrum in terms of frequency and wavelength, and identify the locations of radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and gamma rays on the spectrum.

Albert Einstein was able to make his leap of understanding about mass and energy because of the many scientists before him who had worked hard, seen problems in a new light, and fought to make their ideas heard. Today's scientists continue to build on Einstein's work and the work of others to reveal new understanding about the world. In this activity, you will learn about some of the people who contributed to the concepts in and confirmation of E = mc2. Watch "Einstein's Big Idea" closely from the perspective of how the concept of electricity and magnetism are intertwined in James Clerk Maxwell's theory of light and how matter and energy are essentially the same thing.



  1. The following concepts are in this video drama; the scientist(s) is also noted:

    1. energy (Michael Faraday)
    2. mass (Antoine-Laurent and Marie Anne Lavoisier)
    3. light (Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell)
    4. velocity - c2 (Gottfried von Leibniz and Emilie du Châtelet)
    5. development of E = mc2 (Albert Einstein)
    6. confirmation of E = mc2 (Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann, Lise Meitner, and Otto Robert Frisch)

  2. The following format will aid in your notetaking:
    Time Period:
    Challenges Faced:

  3. Conduct additional research to answer the following questions fully:

    1. Discuss Faraday's journey from bookbinder's apprentice to lab assistant and Faraday's quest to understand the interaction of electricity and magnetism. Detail his key insights into the nature and relationship of electricity and magnetism by discussing two experiments he performed.

    2. Replicate one of Faraday's experiments in the lab and write a detailed lab report, following the Northbridge High School Science Lab Report Rubric. This will count as a lab report grade.

    3. Explain how Maxwell was able to mathematically show that light is a form of electromagnetism, a finding supporting Faraday's belief that light was an electromagnetic wave.

  4. Read Einstein's September 1905 paper, "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on It's Energy Content?" and write an educated defense of Einstein's theory to counter his critics who argued: "Who does this Einstein think he is? How dare he contradict the fundamental principles of Newtonian physics? Where is his scientific evidence? What are his credentials for making such an assertion? This is preposterous ... we can't allow people just to say things like this without proof! How dare he, this idea should be given no credence at all!"

The Nature of Matter & Energy Rubric

Electricity & Magnetism
Highly Competent

  • The historical background is fully and accurately explained and discussed
  • All key experiments and who performed them are discussed.
  • Nature of electricity and magnetism is fully and accurately discussed.


  • The historical background is accurately explained and discussed.
  • Many key experiments and who performed them are discussed.
  • Nature of electricity and magnetism is accurately discussed.

Needs Improvement

  • The historical background is presented.
  • Some key experiments and who performed them are discussed.
  • Nature of electricity and magnetism is discussed.


  • Little historical background is presented.
  • Few key experiments and who performed them are discussed.
  • Nature of electricity and magnetism is touched upon.


  • No historical background is presented.
  • No key experiments and who performed them are discussed.
  • Nature of electricity and magnetism is not touched upon.

E=mc2 Defense
Highly Competent

  • Strong arguments are given for each of the principals involved.
  • Each argument is fully and accurately discussed with a mathematical basis when appropriate.


  • Good arguments are given for each of the principals involved.
  • Each argument is accurately discussed with a mathematical basis when appropriate.

Needs Improvement

  • Reasonable arguments are given for many of the principals involved.
  • Each argument is discussed with a mathematical basis when appropriate.


  • Few arguments are given for many of the principals involved.
  • Many arguments are not discussed with a mathematical basis when appropriate.


  • Arguments given are not related OR are not present.
  • Each argument of is not discussed.

Grade Equivalency Range:
Highly Competent (100-90%)
Competent (89-80%)
Needs Improvement (79-70%)
Unsatisfactory (69-60%)
Failing (59-0%)

Electricity & Magnetism _______ * .30 = _______
E = mc2 Defense _______ * .60 = _______
NHS Writing Rubric _______ * .10 = _______
(found at
Final Score _______

Sent in by
James Gorman
Northbridge High School
Whitinsville, MA

Teacher's Guide
Einstein Revealed

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