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Backstage science

  • Key Stage 3
  • GCSE
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Modelling
Topic: Work & power

The glitz and glamour of the Oscars is over for another year. But the work of backstage movie and theatre workers continues as normal.

This activity gets students thinking about backstage science, specifically the forces to make Peter Pan ‘fly’ above stage. Students make a model of the flying set-up, before considering backstage careers that use science.

11-16 How Science Works:
Applications and implications of science
4a About the use of contemporary scientific and technological developments and their benefits, drawbacks and risks.

Published: 5th March 2008
Reviews & Comments: 2

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Learning objectives

Students will
• Learn how pulleys make lifting things easier
• Learn about backstage careers that use science

Try the activity


You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11-14 (KS3)

From September 2008
1.2a Exploring how the creative application of scientific ideas can bring about technological developments and consequent changes in the way people think and behave.

3.1b Forces are interactions between objects and can affect their shape and motion.

Until September 2008
QCA unit 9k Speeding up
• Describe how forces change movement.

14-16 (KS4)

How science works
Applications and implications of science
4a About the use of contemporary scientific and technological developments and their benefits, drawbacks and risks.


GCSE specifications
Please see downloadable teachers notes for more details.

Running the activity

Display page 1 to set the scene, and page 2 to set the task. Next, show students the youtube clip of Peter Pan 'flying' – the clip shows what happens backstage, as well as what happens above stage. Then display pages 4 and 5 to describe how pulleys help Peter Pan 'fly' above stage. If possible, demonstrate how the pulley system works.

Then give each group copies of pages 2 and 3. Get them to make models of the stage to show how Peter Pan will fly. Each group will need a shoe-box sized box, or the equivalent amount of scrap card to make their model. Students will need access to Sellotape and/or glue. Ideally, each group needs a small pulley set and string as shown on page 5. If this is not possible, then allow all students to try using the demonstration set.

Then display page 6 to set the second task, on backstage careers that use science. Display the information on page 7 to help them do this task.

News links

The Oscars
Official web site
The Oscars
Information on this year's technical achievement awards
You Tube
Youtube clip showing Peter Pan 'flying', and what happens backstage to make it happen.
How Stuff Works
More on backstage science
Association of British Theatre Technicians
Information about working backstage in various roles, as well as qualification and experience requirements.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Great Idea

May 3rd, 2008

3 Star

I think year 7s will enjoy this activity - its a pity that the powerpoint didn't download properly - have you any suggestions?

Reviewer: Maureen Trotter

Global Warming

Apr 18th, 2008

4 Star

Reviewer: OLUWATOYIN LADITI

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