Last Wednesday was Dia dos Trabalhadores and therefore we didn’t have class (pictures to come). But more importantly, I didn’t have class on Wednesday and therefore had two double classes on Thursday to fill with something other than new material since I wanted to keep my classes on the same schedule. So what do I do with an 95 minute block… EXPERIMENT TIME!!!
This was the perfect opportunity for me to teach my students about the Scientific Method and then apply it to a simple experiment. During the first 20 minutes of the dupla, I taught them about the components of a scientific method (Hypothesis, Materials, Realize the Experiment, Results and Analysis, Conclusion). The last hour we did the “What will hit the ground first when dropped, a rock, or a piece of paper.” For those of you who attended in American High School, this probably sounds like the most boring experiment of all time, but for my kids who had NEVER learned about the Scientific Method and NEVER done an experiment, this was a Big F%&*ing Deal!
After discussing the Scientific Method, I split to class into groups of 5 to do the experiment. Each group had to come up with a hypothesis and list of materials. We then discussed each group’s ideas and how different each of them was, but that none of them were “wrong” (a serious issue in Mozambique teaching methods and teaching methods in general is that these kids are always told they are wrong and therefore lose the desire to step outside the box and their comfort zone). After establishing the hypothesis and list of materials I told the kids, get your materials and test your hypothesis!
Immediately have the class went out to find rocks and returned with rocks varying from 0.2 kg to about 5 kg (I think we took a chip out of the floor with the big one…) I gave them no instructions as to how to actually test the hypothesis other than the fact that they needed to use stopwatches (most had them on their phones). Then, the coolest thing happened, they all started working together and smiling and laughing while they worked! Then they started to question each other and their methods in order to reduce error! YES! They had no idea they were actually following a scientific thought process, but they were doing it! They were discussing things like, “what height do we drop them from?”, “should we drop them at the same time or do different trials for each body?”, “how do we time them to get the most correct time of fall?”.
I could not have been happier with the whole process! After they had their results, we worked together on how to calculate the average of their trials (yes most of them realized they should do more than one trial!) and how to calculate the error in their results. As homework, they had to write me a conclusion answering four questions. I had no idea when I assigned this, how incredibly intelligent and incredibly funny the responses would be. Let me say that the majority of the kids were really getting the scientific process and questioning the error in their results and how they could decrease the error. Most also were able to arrive to the conclusion that the rock had more mass and therefore fell faster and some even concluded that wind affected their results (second level thinking, nice!). I even had a female student who turned in report on how classical and modern physics applied to the experiment (a bit more than I assigned but awesome; Get it Girl!).
I had trouble reading some of the responses given my inexperience with Portuguese and some of my students still struggle with writing in Portuguese. I really am content with the majority of the conclusions the kids arrived at and the process overall, but there were a few responses that were HILARIOUS! Made me laugh like my Mom listening to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” while walking around Capital Lake (I can hear her on the other side of the lake). I would like to share a few with you. I’ll post the question first, and then some of the responses I received. In my kids defense, the questions were not the most specific and I definitely could have explained them better.
Q. Voce aceita ou rejeita a sua hipotese? Porque? Did you accept or reject your hypothesis? Why?
- I accept my hypothesis because I have the experience of how to lead well in the class.
- I reject my hypothesis because it isn’t right.
Q. O que correu bem e não correu bem? What went well and what didn’t go well?
- What went well is that the experiment went well and also didn’t go well.
- What went well was the homework and it was a class well taught by Professor Eric. What didn’t go well was the experiment was short and didn’t go well.
- Everything didn’t go well. (Quite possibly my favorite!)
- What went well in the class of experiments, all went well.
- During my experiment everything went well because it wasn’t a complicated experiment and it was an experiment with an easy conclusion.
- What went well in my audience about my life is about the hypothesis and in the realization of my life. (Didn’t really know where he was going with that one…)
Q. Proxima vez, o que é que faria diferente? Next time what would you do differently?
- Next time what I would do different is study a lot.
- What I would do different is that I had experimented more to better my experiment.
- The next time I would do one thing different. (nothing followed…)
- Next time, I would do the experiment.
- Next time, I will do what is possible in my life to continue with more luck and more strength, and more intelligence in order for all to go well in my life. (Again, not quite sure what he was going for…)
Q. O que aprendeu ao longo o processo? What did you learn during the process?
- I learned a lot because the experiment taught me well and thanks to the experiment, we learned a lot.
- I learned many things during the process.
- During the process I learned diverse things very important to me.
- During the process I learned many things about the class.
More than not, I got overwhelmingly positive feedback from the kids, many of them asking to do more experiments in the future. The best part was a few kids even said that I should have spent more time explaining the questions and the scientific method. This is a huge deal because it means my kids finally are starting to feel comfortable enough with me as a teacher and a friend to be honest with me! I totally agreed with them and told them I would try to develop more experiments we can do in class (with relatively no expense). Yes I am falling behind the Mozambican 11th Grade Physics Syllabus, but the syllabus is ridiculous and unrealistic anyways and my kids learned more about science in the one experiment experience than they’d learned the entire year from my lectures on movement and force diagrams! GO SCIENCE! (Also the first science club meeting of the year and Ultimate Frisbee practice are in the coming week, stay posted!)
SCIENCE, IT WORKS! Eric, JTT