Reflection: Student Ownership Momentum - Section 2: Predicting Results of One-Dimensional Collisions


We often talk about being "student-centered" but how often do we really step out of the way and allow students to explore? Today, my plan had been to demonstrate - very carefully so as to elicit the most critical ideas - each of the four collision scenarios that my students had just considered. In an impromptu moment, I decided to let students try to replicate those scenarios. Many terrific things happened.

First, students were quite alert to the difficulty of matching velocities in the cases where that was a requirement. It was a physical reaction - they needed to coordinate with one another. Better yet, they realized, perhaps just one person pushing gliders toward one another would be the best strategy. I don't think they would have gotten that idea had I just told them or showed them . . . Doing it made it very real, very quickly.

Second, students substituted their "fast-twitch" muscles for my more methodical approach. In other words, they did lots of trials in quick succession and built up an intuition about the gliders in a short time. Instead of seeing some lesson slowly unfold, they made rapid-fire observations and iterations which led, ultimately, to them stumbling upon the concept of the immovable object.

The lesson that was absorbed was different than the one I had planned. But, I think, it was better and it was more engaging. I wish I could say that it had been my plan all along!

  Stepping Out of the Way
  Student Ownership: Stepping Out of the Way
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Unit 6: Forces and Motion
Lesson 10 of 11

Objective: Students will examine one-dimensional collision problems and use the principle of momentum to predict outcomes of those collisions.

Big Idea: Collisions can not be predicted solely by energy ideas; we need momentum to fully understand the physics of collisions.

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