Day 109 – Lighting A Bulb

Science 9 – Today the students did a classic electricity activity. Can you light a bulb using a battery and only 1 wire? Having spent a significant amount of time investigating conductors and insulators, the students were much faster and way more successful in this task than in previous years.

Day 108 – Detecting Charge Flow

Science 9 – Students are using compasses to detect if charges are flowing in a circuit. This is an important step in finding out the nature of charges in a circuit (location, direction of movement, starting point). Today they find out that the direction that charges move in simple circuit is constant.

Day 106 – Circuits

Science 9 – My science 9 students are now working with circuits in the electricity unit. I’m following my own modified version of the CASTLE curriculum. The first step for the students is to identify what materials are conductors and insulators, and to use some type of circuit setup to test for conductivity (battery, three wires, and a light bulb).

After today students have the model that a continuous loop of conductors makes a circuit while an insulator will prevent a circuit from working. In a few days we will try to break this model!

Day 104 – Calculating Energy

Physics 11 – Today I was away from class again so a TOC came in to cover. The main task for the day was for the physics students to learn how to calculate kinetic and gravitational energy.

Ideally I would like students to work through this by doing two experiments, having already learned that Es = 1/2 k x^2

  1. launch a spring loaded cart using different springs and measure the speed that results
  2. launch a spring loaded cart up a ramp using different springs and see how high it goes

Both of these activities really require a decent cart with spring (ie little friction) and a motion sensor for the speed.  Especially for task #1 we would need a decent computer for quickly graphing the data and manipulating the graphs.

This kind of activity would take at least two classes and probably three.  The question I wonder is whether it’s worth it.  Research says yes but it’s also about value systems.  We can spend a lot of time going deep on topics and using good process skills, or we can move through the topics quickly and maybe work on some interesting and creative (engineering) projects.

Day 103 – Viscosity Pt. 2

Science 8 – Following from last day, a few kids designed an experiment where they wondered what would happen to the pouring rate if the temperature was changed. That’s fantastic, because there is another lab in the textbook that covers this.

Today’s lab focus is data collection and graphing. They’ve already worked on experimental design and the procedure for this test isn’t very obvious. The graphing is a bit difficult though, because after the temperature of corn syrup reaches 55C, the data gets unreliable. They are measuring the time it takes for a steel BB to drop through 200 mL of heated corn syrup, and after 55 C the viscosity is so low that the time is less than 1 s. This makes timing very unreliable and inaccurate.

I looked over the Smarter Science sheets that the kids made and it was pretty good. The most difficult part of this process seems to be picking the dependent variable. What can the observe or measure that will determine if there is an effect or not? Many kids could not identify this, or also included independent variables.

Day 102 – Reason #102 Why I Like SBG

Physics 11 – Today I had a student that has his ups and downs in physics come by and be assessed on a couple of learning objectives. I know that he knows more than what he shows in testing and I just have to draw it out of him. I was able to give him several situations where he had to draw the force diagram and tell me if the forces were balanced or not. He would work through them, talking while he thought about his answers, correcting himself as he went. He did very well on both of these objectives and I was able to score both objectives as Mastered.

With SBG I can do this type of assessment quite easily. It’s not about how many points the test is out of, I don’t need to give him a “chapter test”, etc. He identified two objectives he was ready to be assessed on, and that’s what happened.

My students have a grade/list of assessments that tell anyone what they know in physics. It doesn’t rate the students, it doesn’t judge how fast they learned it, or how many times they failed. If someone wants to assess them on those qualities, they are more than welcome to do it, but I’m not going to.

Day 101 – Line Following

Robotics – Today was a great day to see one of my robotics club members pass a big hurdle. He managed to get his robot to do decent line following. He was very proud of this accomplishment and happy to show his friends. While line following is a standard robotics function, this student had never done programming prior to this and essentially worked on the problem by himself. Well done!

Day 100 – Viscosity Experiment

Science 8 – In science 8 we continue to use the Smarter Science framework for developing experimental design. For today’s class, I started out by pouring some corn syrup into a beaker of water. The idea was to stimulate kid’s observations and wonderment about viscosity. By having a beaker with water in it, the students are reminded that corn syrup and water are probably different.

I had the students fill out a level 2 Smarter Science experimental sheet, which I plan to take home and give feedback.

For today though, I took the idea that several kids had which was to test pouring rate. This is close to a lab that is in the science 8 textbook. So while the kids followed a set experimental procedure, I think many will have come up with the overall design of the experiment by themselves with correct dependent variable, independent variable, and control variables.