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an illustration of a classic catapult Catapult Launch!

Potential or Kinetic?  You tell us! Energy is all around us in one form or another.  Today we will discuss both types of energy and we will build a catapult to demonstrate both potential and kinetic energy.

This activity is pulled from our Virtual ExCEL Camps happening summer of 2020! While these activities are written to fit into the larger lesson plan of the camp themes, you can complete them with your little one at any time. Learn more about our Virtual ExCEL Summer Camp here!


  • Potential Energy
  • Kinetic Energy

To learn the vocabulary, watch this video. Or click on the direct link below: https://youtu.be/T7MuXL7KfyY


When the ball is sitting on the catapult is that potential or kinetic energy?

What about when the ball is launched?

Watch this video:

To do the activity, watch this video. Or click on the direct link below: https://youtu.be/eyXXtCvKbak


  • 6 popsicle sticks
  • 3 wide rubber bands
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • ball or something to launch (can use tin foil or paper rolled into a ball)


Children will create a catapult. Here’s are the steps on how to do it.

  1. Stack 5 of your popsicle sticks
  2. Wrap a rubberband around the end of the 5 sticks, about ½ inch from the end
  3. Put your last popsicle stick in the stack of 5 sticks, in between the fourth and fifth stick in the stack
  4. This should create a T shape
  5. Wrap a rubberband around the other end of the stack
  6. Place your plastic spoon at the top of the stack.  It should be horizontal to the single stick but the stack of sticks should be between spoon and single stick.
  7. Wrap a rubber band around the end of the spoon and the end of the single popsicle stick.
  8. You have created a catapult.
  9. Put your safety eyewear on.
  10. Test your Catapult.


Was your hypothesis correct? When did the ball demonstrate kinetic energy? Catapults have been used throughout history and are also known as trebuchets.  The most famous one was called the WarWolf and was used by King Edward I.


Cheryl Hannan, Professor from California State University, LA. Learn more about them in this video!

Johna Bogue, Lower school science teacher (grades PreK- 3rd) at The Pegasus School, CA. Learn more about them in this video!

Parisa Behmardi Lamarra, Teacher of the Visually Impaired at Whittier Unified School District, CA. Learn more about them in this video!

Susan Drake, Special education teacher and student in VI college program at Missouri State University. Learn more about them in this video!

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