Friday, November 22, 2013

The Lesson Behind the Lesson

The lab activity was designed to show the energy transformation from potential to kinetic and then back  to potential energy. There was a marble and a ramp involved, and the students flew through the main activity. They measured the speed of the marble at seven different locations along the ramp, and explained where the marble got the energy to move over each hill.

And then once the official lab activity was over, the unofficial experiments began. Some students decided to try adding more than one marble to the ramp. A group of boys created their own half-Newton's-Cradle-half-Jacks game. Another group decided to design their own Rube-Goldberg type of device, where they drop the ball off the highest point on the ramp, bounce it along a series of desks, and land it inside a trashcan fifteen feet away.

They continually remind me how much learning can happen when the other "official learning plan" gets out of the way.


  1. This is really cool! It sounds like you give your students the freedom to really "explore the space" (as they say in the SNL cowbell skit that my boys love :)

    Do you think you've found the best balance of "official activity" time and "explore" time? It seems there's potential dangers on either end of that spectrum.

    Thanks for the twitter follow, now I have a whole new blog to read!

  2. Thanks so much! And I'm definitely still working on the right balance between "official activity" time and "explore" time. I'm currently trying to develop a "Choose Your Own Adventure" theme/model for my classroom that would perhaps better facilitate student exploration while also keeping them on task for our learning goals. I definitely agree that there are dangers when shifting too far on either end of the spectrum. I think there are definitely more blog posts on this topic to come! And thanks for taking the time to read my blog!