Engaging Without Overspending

As a teacher, we are constantly trying to find ways to engage our students about science. We want to grab their attention, reel them in, and captivate them in unique and fun ways. However, unfortunately we often want to do these things while also on a budget. That’s why I have compiled a list of five (free) resources that will start the engage your students and start your classroom period off right.

Movie Scenes

High school students love movies! By opening class with a scene from a popular movie, you can start a discussion about the physics that is displayed in the scene. Did it seem realistic, why or why not? What laws of motion were on display? Were any of these laws violated? This can be a great way to get your class talking at the beginning of the class, and also a great way to get them interested for the rest of the lesson.

There are many videos on the internet of physicists analyzing movie clips and discussing the authenticity of the physics displayed in the movie. It may be very engaging for your students to view one of these videos, because they will be interested in the physicist’s opinion of the movie. Also, this will give your class a chance to see a real-life physicist and will portray scientists in a fun and exciting new way.

Don’t worry, I did the hard work for you already and compiled a list of videos that show movie clips and are discussed by expert physicists. I hope you and your class enjoys!

Fun Demonstrations

What better way to start class than a cool and exciting physics demonstration. This is a great way to get the class interested in what they will be learning. There are endless demonstrations to choose from, but some of the best are do-it-yourself demonstrations that are very cheap. These demonstrations will engage your students without breaking the bank.

One of my favorite demonstrations is a sand pendulum. This is a pendulum that leaks sand out onto the surface underneath. The sand traces the path of the pendulum, and the resulting pattern quite unexpected and beautiful. The materials are very cheap for this demonstration, and will definitely captivate your students!

Another fun (and cheap) demonstration to do for your class also involves a pendulum. This demonstration is guaranteed to be engaging for your class, but will require a little bit of bravery on your part, and trust in Newton’s laws of motion. For this demonstration, a bowling ball pendulum is used. The instructor releases the ball from near his head, and lets it swing back, but stays in the same position. The ball will come close to returning near his head, but because of Newton’s laws, the loss of energy will keep the ball from hitting the teacher in the head. This is guaranteed to be a fan-favorite.

Sports Highlights

Professional sports is filled with physics. There is physics everywhere in every sport. And better yet, sports are very relevant in the lives of teenagers. The students that you teach either are heavily involved in playing sports, or watch sports, at least their high school football games, and definitely the SuperBowl. Many students of yours will play and watch sports all the time. In fact, sports will be their life! So why not relate sports to physics? By showing sports highlight clips at the beginning of class and discussing the physics involved, you can engage your class in rich physics discussion over a topic they already love.

If you want an expert physicist’s help when analyzing highlight reels of your students favorite players, thankfully there are many videos on the internet that have expert scientists analyzing the physics behind many of these sports highlights. There are many amazing videos, I’ll share below some great ones I found.

Field Trip

Take your class on an impromptu field trip! I’m not talking about anything crazy, but maybe to the school’s garden to learn about the life cycle of a plant. Or maybe to the school’s custodian closet to learn about cleaning chemicals and surfactants. Be creative and think outside the box! This is a great way to start off the class, by doing something outside of your student’s normal routine and engaging them in something new and unexpected. Examples of places you could go on your “class field trip” are below

  • School garden to learn about the life cycle of a plant
  • Cafeteria to learn about the chemistry of baking bread
  • Janitor’s closet to learn about the chemistry of cleaning supplies
  • School football field to learn about the physics of kicking a field goal
  • School gymnasium to learn about the physics of perfect free throw form

The list is endless! Get creative and take your students on a learning adventure around the school


Tik-Tok is a very trendy social media platform for teenagers these days. So why not use it in your classroom to engage your students? There is a lot of science content on tik-tok, and many videos that your students will love. Showing these short videos is a great way to start off class and get your students excited for today’s lesson. Here are just a few examples I dug up that would work great in any physics classroom.



As you can see, there are many ways to engage your students that do not require breaking the bank. I hope this short list I compiled will be helpful to you and give you inspiration to find your own ways of engaging your class on a budget. Please comment with what ideas worked well, and any ideas you would like me to try. Thanks for reading!


  1. Hey Nathan!
    I really liked reading your blog, I thought the ideas were culturally relevant and that kids would be really intrigued, especially because it connects physics to their real lives, which is SO important! I think that critiquing movie sciences with a physics lens would be a great way to get students interested and thinking critically at the beginning of class. I also really liked your idea to take a trip to the janitor’s closet at school to talk about the chemicals used in cleaning, again, which is a super practical but relevant example. So great job on that! My one question is that the sports and Marvel examples tend to lend themselves towards engaging boys, how would you maybe differentiate your engaging activities for a diverse classroom?

  2. Hey Nate!
    You did an amazing job with this blog post. You provided SO MANY specific resources and I’ll definitely be using some of them in my future classroom. I think the impromptu field trip is a great idea, but I was wondering if you think that virtual field trips could supplement those trips in any way?
    Really great post, looking forward to your next one!

  3. Nate,
    Awesome job on bringing up some key budget-friendly options for the classroom. I enjoyed reading your section on movie scenes since I never really thought about that. I am big into Marvel movies and I know many students are as well. I think that if we can incorporate science concepts into learning, the engagement we receive will be very high. This method might even bring forth further questioning and analysis of the scientific content in the movies. A question I have for you is how can we structure the movie-watching experience to allow for us to check that students are connecting it to course content but at the same time allowing the students to enjoy the movie?

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