Starting the Sports Project!
Applying force, motion and scientific method to improve in a sport of MY choice today, as an example for how to get started with this semester’s project. Rock climbing. Monday, they get to start research on their choice. Ideas are ranging from dancing to football, Wii, horse riding, volley ball, soccer and fails like no, not video games. But yes to yo-yo-ing. Hey, there is the Chico Yo Yo festival to aspire to. We attended, but by mistake. Yeah right :-).
So the trick is to figure out what would be a measurable physical skill that will actually help them get better at something they already do, or something they’ve always wanted to try. As with the Take Action Project, they have to do something they want to do, not something easy, or something they think I want them to do to get the A. I feel sad that I have to emphasize this to them.
For something complex like soccer, I get them to think about one skill within the game that they need to improve in, rather than the whole team winning more games. What could they quantify? Number of times they hit a target? Distance they kick the ball? Speed they dribble the ball with? Or what.
As they were sharing ideas, there was a subtle but real shift in the energy of the room, away from damn, another stupid physics lesson, to on-task, active chatter about their projects. The balancing act of student vs teacher-centered instruction. Then how to put in enough scaffolding to keep them doing it, clear and with enough freedom to keep them engaged. Too much and they lose the plot and peter out. Too little freedom and it becomes a chore.
I was uneasy taking five classes to our school climbing wall but it was way more fun than I expected. They had to do a force diagram but knew exactly how from the previous forces instruction and the photo assignment looking for balanced and unbalanced forces. They knew the terms for experimental variables and how to write a hypothesis from last year, and how to measure time accurately from labs this year. So they felt competent as they went to get the baseline data for the climbing example. You can’t know you’ve improved until you figure out exactly how lame you are right now.
One of my girls is an 11b climber at the gym I go to. She is the bomb. Did the wall in 24.5s. Amazing. Unbeaten but boys tried mightily. I got a sad 45s by comparison AND fell off in front of them. But totally incidental to them doing their thing, writing stuff into their lab sheets and seemingly genuinely energized by the challenge and the application of the physics they are learning.
I’m going to breathe and appreciate these sweet moments in an un-English, grateful way. Monday, we are in the computer lab, researching the physics of their choice of sport. But not video games. Did I already say that?