It's hard for students to make the connection between lines on a graph and the motion of objects in the real world, but it's a skill they need to succeed in Physics.
My students are juniors and seniors in high school Physics, and they learn best through hands-on activities where they get to control the action.
Kids in my classes want to explore on their own, they want to create games out of lessons, and they want to see how Physics is related to their everyday lives. Money has been tight in our school for the past few years so there has not been a lot of new Science equipment or supplies for student-centered learning.
Having a motion detector for each small group in my class will let my students create and study graphs of their own movement. Students will be able to see how the direction, speed, and changes in speed make the graphs change. By mapping their own motion, they will gain a real understanding of what walking one meter per second feels like (and why saying someone can run at a speed of 20 meters per second is ridiculous!).
Learning about velocity and acceleration is the foundation for an entire semester of Physics learning. These motion detectors will give my students the chance they need to experience the Physics connection to what they do every day. Part of their challenge will be to create motion graphs that other students must replicate by moving in front of their motion detector, and to respond to similar challenges by their peers. This activity will make learning fun and push them to think more carefully about how to translate between graphs and motion in the real world.
Making this connection between graphs and the real world is a skill that will serve my students both in Physics class and for the rest of their lives.
This lab equipment will naturally encourage my students to ask and answer their own questions such as "What will happen if I move backwards?", and "I wonder if I can make a graph that looks like a staircase?" I hope to inspire my students to approach the world with this inquisitive attitude that is so fundamental to Science and critical thinking.
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