The Projectile Project – let’s do launch

September 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM Leave a comment

How far can you get a piece of paper to go? You have up to one piece of paper, 10 paper clips, 10 rubber bands and 10″ of tape per projectile. Use the computers if you like. Work with who you like. Requirement to write down an entry in their new project log book for today and one more at home (ideas, what they tried, measurements for how far their trials went etc.) That was pretty much the challenge and set for the Projectile Project assigned at the end of the Motion Unit and just before the Forces Unit.

As soon as I mentioned that they could work with who they wanted, they could only think about that. So leave that til last, or let them get into groups first.

Marked out the blacktop with orange spray paint every meter for 60 meters. (The most fun part of teaching, other than zooming around the classroom in the rolly chair. Right there a reason to get your teaching credential.)

Keep an eye on materials. The most common solution was to make a rubber band ball with 1,000 rubber bands (or so) and have the best baseball pitcher throw it an unbelievably long way. Like 56 meters. So I decided to make categories – balls, balls with string launchers, catapult-type launchers and the darts and paper planes categories.

They actually rushed to get to work and everyone was totally on task. Interesting to watch ideas ‘infect’ others in the class, and across classes too. The rubber band ball with a paperclip throwing string was big. Quite a few went on the internet, but mostly, they snuck glances around the room.

Interesting to differentiate between copying, cheating, collaborating and improving/innovating. Because of course, there is no such thing as a totally new idea. “If I have seen further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” overstates the case here, but such a great insight for this small endeavor too.

I’m a little uneasy about the rather loose connection to ACADEMICS here. We are just coming off some pretty heavy-duty graphing of distance and speed vs. time, plus the interpretation and we needed some brain-rest. Plus it’s going to be interesting to see if they can and do use the academic vocabulary as they describe what they did and the improvements they made. I’m also interested in using this as a way to get at the elusive “What we still need to know” to tee off the Forces unit and the physics of projectiles.

The tension between fun and academics, between pre-teaching and teaching in context, is something that teases me all the time. My husband loves a quote “I recognize balance as I swing right past it.” not sure who said it. I think it was a rock star.


Entry filed under: Creativity, Physics Topics, Project Based Learning, PROJECTS, Starting the School Year.

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