Day 104 – Energy Skateboard Park


Physics 11 – After a two year hiatus, I returned to the Phet Energy Skateboard Park. This was the student’s first exposure to energy bar charts, after having spent a class on discussing energy as storage systems, and representing energy storage in pie charts.

The handout in the picture above has some leading questions for the kids to use while exploring the simulation. They didn’t hand in the worksheet. Instead, I used some plicker questions to check their understanding.


3 thoughts on “Day 104 – Energy Skateboard Park”

  1. PhET Sims + peer instruction = awe. some.

    I spend a lot of time thinking about peer instruction, trying to get the most out of those interactions. Here’s a possibility for squeezing even more out of your already awesome lesson:

    Imagine you create 4 energy bar charts, and the peer instruction question is “How many of these bar charts could describe the skater at position C” The answers are A) one bar chart B) two of them C) three of them D) all four of them. With this set up:
    – students *have* to talk to each other. Even if everyone B, say, you say, “Great! Turn to your neighbour and tell them which 2!”
    – you can carefully select the 4 bar charts to include. Perhaps 2 of them are possible, with one of them being better because of something subtle.
    – you can totally use the “wrong” bar charts later in the class wide discussion “Yes, great work everyone. Two bar charts are possible, Chart I and Chart 3 (though 3 is better.) Can anyone tell me what location is descirbed Chart 2 [which you’ve carefully engineered to be another marked location on the ramp.”
    – be sure to label the four bar charts with something other than ABCD, so that when a student clicks B, they’re not selecting bar chart B.

    With this “how many” format, you can get the students to analyze and discuss all the locations, even though there was one “right” answer.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Peter, I like those ideas. I’ll try something like that for sure. One thing I try is i tell the class that I’ll randomly pick someone to give an explanation after second vote, which improves the superficial discussion that sometimes happens (although not often because the kids find the questions and process intriguing). Sometimes I even tell them everyone will get 50 extra points if the explanation is good, which sets off the best discussions of the year. This is funny because I don’t even grade using points. Some kids just shake their heads when they see their peers going bananas for no reason. Good fun!

    Today we had one very good peer instruction. From Mazur, the mass of the rock doubles, what happens to the kinetic energy? First vote was 50/50, second vote was almost all correct. 2nd peer instruction wasn’t as good. Mazur’s how much do you have to increase mass in order to double the speed. Hardly anyone thought 4x mass. A few kids picked up the square, but for most kids it’s beyond their level. I think they see squares and square roots as something you “do” rather than a way to describe a relationship. In our hurry to get through the material we often slide over meaning, even while I’m trying to embody things like Modeling Instruction.


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