Today is the day before our spring break. In my 3 years of being in a classroom, I have observed several things about this day:
- Many students don’t show up. Some because their parents chose an earlier flight to Florida to save some money, and some because of my next reason
- Not much that is significant tends to happen on the day before a break. Lots of movies, games, “parties,” etc
- Kids that come to school expect these movies, games, parties, etc, and get upset when anything but that occurs.
- There will be a big test and the students will hate those teachers FOREVER!!!
So, I gave my tests on Wednesday for my “regular” physics class, and yesterday in my AP physics class. Today, I planned a Barbie Bungee activity. In this activity, students created a bungee cord out of long rubber bands, attached a barbie to the end of it, and threw her off the back of the bleachers. The objective is to predict the proper number of rubber bands to string together such that Barbie comes close to the ground, but doesn’t hit it (think The Price Is Right). Here’s what I did:
- I used two periods for this activity.
- I had 8 Barbies, so I had groups of either 2 or 3 students
- I gave the students some meter sticks and some rubber bands (like 5-7) in the classroom so that they could do some predictions
- The students came up with a prediction, I wrote it down in a list, and we headed out to the football field bleachers
- The bleachers are approximately 8.8m tall, and the students knew this when they were doing their tests
- I counted the number of rubber bands before each jump to keep the kids honest and not sneak on/off some extra rubber bands before they went.
- I had a student video all of the jumps at the bottom of the bleachers so that we could compare each “jump”
I had three classes doing this – two college prep physics and one AP physics. I would expect AP kids to actually do worse in this activity because in my experience, they tend over think it. However, I had the best results in my AP class today. A lot of kids got Barbie relatively close to the ground, and the winner got her within inches of the ground (see video below).
First period CP Physics – Actually, this group didn’t win, but they came really close. The thump from Barbie’s head was a little too loud to have made her experience fun.
Third period CP Physics – This was the winning result from this class. All of the others fell significantly less far than this one.
The day’s winner – two students from my AP Physics class got her within inches of the ground!
What was the take away from this lesson? Well, it was out of context from our unit, but it presents a scenario that we do throughout the year – do tests to make a prediction, then apply it to a new scenario. The students had to predict a value and then stick with it. A lot of students actually predicted the number of rubber bands that my winning group had chosen, but subtracted a few “because of extra stretch.” I asked them what they meant by it, and they said, “Well, we think the effect of having several rubber bands will add to the stretch of the chord – it won’t be perfectly proportional.” It turns out, the students who got the best result assumed it would be perfectly proportional.
If I were to spend more time on this, I would allow them to go back after doing an initial test and re-do their tests based on the knowledge gained from the initial bungee jump. It was a fun activity – got the students outside on a nice day to do a scientifically worthwhile activity. Also, in my three classes, I had a total of 4 students absent the whole day. That is the number of absences I get on an average day, so on the day before a vacation, I was certainly pleased.