Considering Momentum

Yesterday I found that I had some extra time in my momentum unit and decided to re-integrate an activity I used to do. Students were given 7 steel ball bearings, 4 magnets, and shown how to make a ‘particle accelerator’.

Quickly, students saw that the ball after the ‘accelerator’ was moving faster than at the start. I then asked them, “is this a violation of the law of conservation of momentum?” most students correctly identified that it was not, and some even able to justify it with a fairly complex understanding of
Forces – but the arena was more interesting.

Without a formal structure, many students felt this was not ‘learning’ – even though they gained a much better grasp of 2-3 concepts covered in our course (and more importantly, how they link). Students wanted to get to their paper and pencil assignment.

As a system, education, specifically in science, needs to stop cheating our students an show them what real learning looks like. Activities such as this give much better comprehension, and more in depth assessment, than pen and paper math questions. This type of learning is used frequently until students reach high school – and here they learn ‘real’ science. We must use curiosity and questioning to push learning further.

Anyone have any other good activities to push my students with?


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