SS Day 14: Bittersweet Last Day

Thursday, 3 July 2014


How I use software distributed on CD. With apologies to Vernier.

The bulk of my last summer school day* was spent on building rubber band cars, which was totally worth the time. Aside from $6 in wooden dowels, everything else was found in and around our science building.

I based what we did heavily off Ben Wildeboer’s (@WillyB) project.

Ben’s totally onto something — there’s immense value in teachers leaving resources up on the web even after we’ve quit using them. His project had a list of rules meant to make the competition more fair (or maybe more fun), which was like hitting paydirt for me. I wouldn’t have thought to limit those things without having done the project before. Oh, and bonus points to Ben for providing my favorite thing: a photo gallery in addition to the project description.

Here’s a video I made after school was over of kids who stuck around to test run their car.

What you see above took 3.5 hours, which I think is about an hour too much. I’d like to overcome this next time by adding appropriate time pressure, but how?

Since my time at summer school is done, I’m thinking about how the kids will respond to a teacher hand-off. My colleague, Meghan, and I worked hard to minimize the shock by planning smooth transitions. Our overall summer school plan involved three main components:

  • Contain everything within a week: finish a unit every week with homework quizzes the morning after any homework assignment, a test on Friday mornings, and a project Friday afternoons
  • Become one: blend our teaching and class management styles so the kids didn’t feel a huge shock switching teachers twice during six weeks
  • Grade fairly: set up tests and quizzes that are similar in difficulty and grading standards

* the kids get Meghan, my co-worker and summer school collaborator, back for next week. We each taught three summer school weeks — an ideal plan if you want a little summer income and a little summer.

SS Day 13: Conservation of Energy Lab

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Scenes from our LoCoE lab today.

Today we demonstrated conservation of energy using a pendulum and photogates. I based my lab almost 100% on one I found online. Here’re my lab and the one I found online. I heard a few aha moments from the kids (like when they connected the total energy here equals the total energy there). While there were a few awkward parts about the data collection I didn’t like and this lab was far too prescripted for my taste, it went well overall. I think my kids spent about an hour on it.

We find Desmos to be the easiest way to graph data points and fit trendlines. I absolutely love using sliders to make a function fit a set of data. So intuitive! The technology takes the tedium out of precise plotting of points but leaves a manual line fit (it’s less magical when they have to manipulate slope and y-intercept of a line). In case you’re curious, we plotted GPE vs KE to see if they were virtually identical.

Next year, I’ll ask the kids to show that GPEi = KEf before doing anything. I’ll also let them come up with ways to set up the data collection.

That said, I do love me some ballistic pendulum action AND I spotted some in a colleague’s room earlier this week. I may just ditch this lab altogether in favor of the ballistic pendulum.

SS Day 12: Energy Skate Park

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


Build the skate park to match your partner’s bar chart.

After introducing work and power yesterday, we spent summer school today with ideas of kinetic and gravitational potential energy, wrapping up finally with the Law of Conservation of Energy.

I showed the kids Energy Skate Park and asked them to build a skate park then tell their partner only how many track segments were on their park. The builder would show only his energy bar chart to his partner, who would then build a park that mimics the graph. The hardest part of this was that the skate park loops and kids had a hard time recognizing when/where it repeated.

Two days of summer school left for me — teaching half of the summer school course has been absolutely awesome and I plan to sign up next year.