Day 114 – Colliding Carts

carts3.gifPhysics 11 – As an introduction to momentum, I have a cart interacting with a force sensor. We dug out an old airtrack and it seems to work pretty good for this. The gif above shows carts colliding on the airtrack.

As for the activity, students make a prediction as to what a Force vs. time graph would like like. I was very pleased and impressed that the students overwhelmingly made a good prediction. Note: sometimes it is not good to make predictions as they can help reinforce misconceptions!

I had a force sensor for this activity but not a motion sensor. I was able to hook up to the Pasco DataStudio software and show the class the F vs t graph. I then had students compare the area under the graph to the change in momentum. To find the momentum, the students were given the mass but they needed to analyze video to get the velocities. That’s about as far as we got today.

Day 113 – Pro D New Curriculum

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Science 8 – Today there was a province wide professional development day for learning and collaborating about the new curriculum. The above graphic is from the science 8 curriculum. One thing I noted on this day was the importance of the kinetic molecular theory. I believe it will be a crucial unit for going through the curricular competencies. This is the unit where students will be using mass balances, graduated cylinders, collecting data, graphing, etc. I think that topics such as density, viscosity and pressure will all fit into this part of the curriculum. While I don’t think that learning viscosity has any large importance for students, it is clearly a good topic to investigate in order to learn and master certain process skills.

As an aside, a friend told me a story about the kinetic molecular theory. Apparently Richard Feynman was asked about what he thought would be the single most important idea or theory that should be passed along to a new civilization, if we could pass on only one. His answer was the kinetic molecular theory: that all things are made up of small particles which vibrate faster as they heat up. Or something like that. Anyways, it’s important.

Day 112 – LOL Instead of Work-Energy

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Physics 11 – By using the LOL diagrams, students do not need to conjure up the Work-Energy Theorem. Instead, students can use first principles: by analyzing the LOL diagram and coming up with the conservation of energy equation, students can solve for any unknown. The work-energy theorem, while concise, is one extra level of abstraction that probably isn’t needed at this point. What is more important: that a student can plug numbers into the right formula or figure out what is happening with energy in the system? These aren’t mutually exclusive, but abstractions can lead to answers with understanding.  This is seen all the time in math, physics, programming, etc.

For problem solving, each step is simple and achievable but these are multi-step questions. They can be difficult for students while they learn to assimilate several ideas at the same time.

Day 111 – Experimental Design Test

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Science 8 – Students had 20 minutes today to be tested on their ability to come up with an experiment using the Smarter Science framework. The scenario I presented to them was: I pulled a wooden block along a desk surface with a spring gauge. Above is the rubric I will use for grading their work.

Day 110 – Transfer Task


Physics 11 – Today my students worked on their Transfer Task for Term 2. This one was a goal-less problem. The idea for transfer tasks is as follows. The learning objectives cover the basic concepts and skills that my students should know, but this doesn’t mean they are experts. In other words, to get the very best grades in physics, up to 100%, students should do more than the basics.

With SBG, for each learning objective I ask students to answer several questions in a row with no mistakes in order to “master” an objective. For this to be a reasonable goal, I cannot ask the hardest questions. If I did, almost no one would master any objective. Coupled with this is the idea that students should have some kind of performance for each unit. Something that requires them to take what they’ve learned and do something new with it. Enter “the transfer task.”

Anyways, the video above is their homework. I’m asking them to be proficient in conservation of energy questions and we’ve already spent significant class time on this.  For those that need help, I’ve made this tutorial video.