Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Marble Ramp Lab - Section 3: Fish Bowl: Modeling the Marble Ramp Lab


At this point in the semester, students have worked with a series of guided inquiry models of physics concepts. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to introduce an activity where students drive the experimental design. I stand in the middle of the room with a table and a set of materials and ask students for their help to solve a problem. When I ask students for help displacing a flash card, I am told a series of useful hints like "Use the ruler to keep the marble moving in a straight line", "Add the dominoes to the textbook to make the ramp higher", and "Fold the flash card so it can catch the marble."

During the fishbowl activity, students guide me into a qualitative solution for moving a flash card across a lab table using a marble's motion.  Within this lesson, I ask students to conduct an experiment in order construct an explanation of the connection between angle and total displacement of an object. I remind students that physics is model-dependent and to try to quantify the mathematical relationship between displacement and angle.  I believe that the flexibility to design experiments to test hypotheses is an essential part of learning and practicing physics.

  Student Crafted :Labs
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: Student Crafted :Labs
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Marble Ramp Lab

Unit 5: Work and Energy
Lesson 7 of 15

Objective: Students will use a marble ramp laboratory experiment to demonstrate an understanding of Work and Energy.

Big Idea: Planning and carrying out investigations is an essential physics skill students can use to design a lab where potential energy is transferred into kinetic energy.

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marble ramp lab
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