Tag Archive | inquiry

Day 177: No More Microwave Experiments, Please!

20130620-215418.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: In looking back over the projects from the midterm and the final, I’m going to be placing some additional restrictions on projects next year:

  • No microwaves
  • No baking
  • No experiments you were capable of doing back middle or elementary school
  • No “Do heavy objects fall faster?” because we already did that in class
  • No objects rolling down ramps to see which rolls faster

Essentially, the project will have to be something they were only capable of doing this year because the project utilizes either:

  • new data collection techniques (e.g., video analysis, Vernier probes, etc.)
  • new physics concepts (e.g., calculating energies, analyzing momentum, etc.)

Hopefully, this will raise the bar for the projects. I want to simultaneously engage my kids in scientific inquiry AND see the world through a new lens by using their new physics tools and concepts.

Day 162: Student Lab Investigation Proposals


Conceptual Physics: Our bike light generator unit is done, and we have 7 days of school left. Definitely not enough time to begin the last unit from “Physics That Works.” So students will be designing their own lab investigation instead. This will be similar to the College-Prep projects, but with some more structure and scaffolding.

I recently read an article about Inquiry Boards in Science and Children (NSTA’s magazine for elementary teachers). It provided a perfect structure for helping students focus on variables in science experiments. I took the basic structure of the Inquiry Board process and rolled it into a proposal sheet: Lab Experiment Project Proposals. We walked through the example about plant growth, highlighting the difference between variables we could change and variables that we can change AND measure. For example, you can change the amount of light the plants would get, but we couldn’t quantify the amount of light (at least with tools at hand).

The student whose proposal is pictured will literally be watching paint dry! You can see how it progressively gets narrower in our focus. First from many variables and outcomes, then to the measurable variables and outcomes, then to picking just one measurable variable and one measurable outcome, and therefore the controls must be all the variables we didn’t pick.