25 October 2011

Feel the Force!

We started the day with a brand new book on forces 'Can You Feel the Force?: Putting the Fizz Back into Physics'. (What a great recommendation from Tammy.) We discovered physics is a real action packed science! After reading that motion is the result of a push or a pull, we had to try it our for ourselves. We tried out a variety of pushes and pulls with a partner, discovering what happens when the forces are equal or unequal. (All after the appropriate safety warnings!)

We had that great moment when a student poses a question and the students propose their own ideas as to why something is happening. D wondered, if he moved suddenly when he and his partner were pushing equally,why his partner lost his balance but he seemed to stay relatively stable. (We noticed on closer inspection D did move his body a bit to keep balanced.) His partner's reaction was also different when he was forewarned of the movement. The idea of structure, balance, stability, equal & unequal force was a big talking point in this lesson. All of these opportunities have the students figuring out how the world is working. 

Connecting with our language focus on Writing to Explain, we recorded our explanations about what was happening during our 'push and pull' experiments.

Continuing our explanation theme we then came back to Newton's first law of motion and puzzled why the law says that moving things will keep moving in a straight line at a constant speed, when our experience is that things generally come to a stop or seem to 'run out of energy'. This led to an explosion of discussions about friction, air resistance, football, airplanes, car crashes, smoothing surfaces to offer less friction, ice skating, waxing skiis............................. We're beginning to explore this idea of friction, but we need to experiment a lot more and research into this. We're wondering (among other things) why a plane can take a longer amount of time to go on the same journey on a different day. Could it be to do with the wind direction or strength? What is air resistance? Is this linked to friction? Can you reduce friction? Why does oil and ice help you move or slide more easily? Does the surface of a football effect how it moves through the air? Is a smooth ball better for football? Does wind direction help a ball move faster or slower through the air? Does the surface of a field effect how far a ball rolls? Why does Miss Judy wax her skis? Is it better to have an airbag or not in a car crash? Why do we have seat belts? 

For me, it's really interesting to see where the students would like to take the inquiry next and support them with ways to do this. My hardest job is sometimes to know when to keep quiet(!) and see if the students can find their own solutions to their questions collectively and not rely on me to come up with the explanations. It's truly amazing to see them work through their ideas, often disagreeing, building on another's idea, feeling the tension when they almost think they've worked it out............and the satisfaction when they know they've got it!

N showed us how to do an interesting experiment where you count to 30 while applying pressure to your partner's hands and vice versa. Then you hold your hands close together and move them backwards and forwards gently. Here is N explaining what to do before we all tried it out. What a strange sensation we experienced!

P.S. I set a Learning Log today. It is due Thursday 3rd November. The instructions are stuck inside the journal. 

05 October 2011

Forces and Motion in Action

Transdisciplinary theme: How the world works

Our new central idea: Motion can be explained by three simply-stated laws known as Newton's laws of motion.

K's link on Monday to Sir Isaac Newton was a great way into our Tuesday investigations. Students re-enacted last week's experiment where I rolled a ball. This time students had to come up with a statement to explain what was happening at each stage as the ball was at rest, in motion and at rest again. We used these statements to draw out our common observations and thoughts. I was really interested to see A using ideas from our energy unit two years ago to point out the ball's potential and kinetic energy. 

This led to the introduction of Newton's First Law of Motion:

If an object is not moving, it will not start moving by itself. If an object is moving, it will not stop or change direction unless something pushes it.

Sesame Street helped us explore this law! We discussed how the law applied to this video, which is so funny but really makes the point well. D exclaimed how force and motion really is everywhere when you start looking. That made us think is it only living things that have motion? What about if an object acts upon a non-living object? This lead us to discuss that scientists try to explore how the world works. K noticed that there seemed to be a cycle at work as objects went from rest to motion to rest. We also noticed the word weight was being used, a connection to our maths unit on measurement. We've started to accumulate a lot of new vocabulary e.g. theory, reaction and law. 

So the next step was to head out of the classroom and go to the park to explore Newton's law at work.

Here's D developing her own inquiry. She picked up a leaf and observed the leaf falling in a zig zag to the ground. She hypothesised that air must be acting on the leaf because it was so flat. A considered that gravity was also at work, but we think the air is also significant. We'll come back to this, is air a force? Then a student picked up an acorn and wondered if it would fall the same way. He tried it and it dropped straight to the ground. Uhmmm. Does a leaf and acorn fall at the same rate? So we tried it out, but we got different results when we tried it twice as it was tricky to release the acorn and leaf at the same time. Students would like to experiment with more natural materials. We've noted this for further investigation and to think about how we can make our test fair.

M and M hanging about in the pursuit of science! 

Observing the wheel on the pirate ship

Watching visitors to the park walking up the rope steps and making them move

Observing the swings in motion

M and M had to reposition their bodies to find a way to balance the see-saw. They explored why it didn't balance. What forces were at work?


Other questions naturally arose in the course of our investigations. How do air currents move? I've heard there's no gravity in space but there is on earth. Why? Have a look at out wiki to start your own wonderings and  inquiries.

Also in class:
Our measurement unit is well under way with students exploring different tools for linear measurement. Students will explore different attributes over the next few weeks.
The writing connection with this unit is 'Writing to Explain'. Students have begun exploring different texts to brainstorm features and frameworks of explanation forms. We are connecting this to out unit of inquiry by orally explaining our scientific observations and ideas. We will move onto written explanations.
We are working on the final stage of our soul portraits. 

04 October 2011

Personal Connections (Homework) 4.10.11

This week I would like you to visit our new Force and Motion wiki. There are two discussion posts for you to respond to about our new unit. Remember to check if you are signed in.

Part One
  • Go to the link in the left column labelled Learning Logs
  • Click onto Week 1
  • Go to the discussion link
  • Read the two tasks and examples
  • Complete the tasks
  • Check your responses for correct spelling and grammar
  • Spend time exploring the first page of the wiki.

Part Two

1. Brainstorm verbs connected to motion e.g. run
2. Create a wordle to display your collection
3. Print it out or screen shot it to send to me.


Due date: Monday 24th October

03 October 2011

Unit Vocabulary

''What words come into your head when I say force and motion?''

That's the question I asked today and here's the collection of words students brainstormed using Wordle:

K discovered a page in her reading book about Sir Issac Newton this morning, which she then read aloud to the class. This has helped us to begin exploring gravity and talk about scientific laws and theories. The first part of our unit is all about finding out what we know already and then connecting this to new learning. Tomorrow we will have a look at our new central idea and begin to explain Newton's first law of motion. This week's 'Personal Connections' task will be posted on Tuesday to follow up this exploration in class.