Racing Back Into Hands-On Science
Far at the end of the Middle School hall the sound of triumph and tribulation could be heard this week as 8th graders raced cars down long colorful ramps. Brenda Walter’s science class was learning about how to gather data from an experiment and analyze it.
“I wanted students to do a successful, fun, hands-on experiment,” Brenda explained. This speed and acceleration lab involved crafting a long ramp from cardstock paper, measuring its length in particular intervals, and timing the speed with which a small car accelerated down the ramp by collecting times with a stopwatch as the car passed various intervals along the length.
As with any experiment challenges arose. What is needed to reinforce a paper ramp? How do you accurately capture time with a stop watch? What happens when your data doesn’t graph the way you thought it should? All of this was fodder for thoughtful classroom discussion and revision.
It was a great departure from what was possible during online learning - which Brenda strove to make hands-on as well. But this week she observed that her students “practiced collaboration and communication, troubleshooting, figuring out how to get their ramps to stay together, taking turns. They are learning to participate and be part of the community again.”
Brenda says the experience offers a great foundation to build upon in terms of how experiments can teach us how things work. Now students have seen “how you can take raw data and process it and put it in a graph that shows what something like speed or acceleration means.”