Grade Level

High School




Kelsey Lucas, Kristen L. Cacciatore

Lesson Summary

Students will apply the conservation of momentum to dolphin swimming. They will examine the concept of a closed system as it relates to a dolphin and the water surrounding it. Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain and use the momentum equation (p=mv);
  • describe the differences between closed and open systems; and
  • apply the conservation of momentum to determine an unknown velocity or unknown mass.



Science and Engineering Practices:


MA Science and Technology/Engineering (2016):


NGSS (2013):


Common Core Math/Language Arts Standards:



closed system, conservation of momentum, conserved, mass, momentum, velocity, vortices

Educator SoundBites

"My AP Physics 1 students really enjoyed this lesson as a way to review for the AP exam that wasn't just practice problems (or problems about balls hitting walls). It was novel and helped them see the applications across multiple domains--what we learn in physics class is applicable in "real life"!
One addition I made was showing them videos of dogs in wheel chairs vs those creepy robodogs; this helped demonstrate the differences between existing underwater robots and what the scientists are working towards (figure 2 in the Bite). Thanks for a great resource!" -Marlene Moxness, AP Physics and physics teacher, STEM Prep HS, Nashville TN

Lesson Documents


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