Sunday, September 3, 2017

Our First Week of School - Physics

We just finished our first week of the new school year. We had a great time venturing head-on into the topic of Physics / Mechanics / Simple Machines.

This is our first main lesson block of the year and all of the children, older and younger, are participating it in it together. I think it will be great community building. And, besides, no one can keep their hands off of a cool Science demonstration! I think that Physics is particularly compelling.

Before I get into the Physics, here are some other notes from the week:

In Physics Week One we watched this fabulous video of a giant warehouse-sized Rube Goldberg Machine (twice) (full-screen).

We learned about Newton's First Law, Inertia and Mass, The Meaning of Force, Types of Forces, Newton's Second Law, and Newton's Third Law.

For inertia, we did this Egg Drop Intertia Trick from Steve Spangler. We also did the activity where you make a large oval on the living room floor with masking tape and then fill a casserole dish up to the very brim with water. This is easiest if the dish is sitting on the coffee table and you use a pitcher to fill it all the way up. A child has to lift the dish from the coffee table, walk around the oval rapidly, and put the dish back down. The water will splash the most when 1) it is stopped and has to start moving, 2) it is going in one direction and has to change directions, and 3) it is moving and has to stop.

For friction, we rubbed our hands together and felt them get hot, discovered that you can't strike a match on glass but it will strike when rubbed against the rough side of the box, played with moving household objects around on a cookie sheet covered with a layer of ice, built a hovercraft using an old CD and a balloon, and lifted an entire vase of rice using only a chopstick.

For spring force, we took apart a clothespin to see how it works.

For tension force, we discussed twanging a guitar string.

For magnetic force, we played with magnets and felt their attractive pull (this is an action-at-a-distance force as opposed to a contact force) and I read page 34 "Explosion on the Sun" from the solar system book below.

For gravitational force, we started out with the gravity water drop experiment. I discovered in the conversation after this experiment that one of my older students believed that gravity is caused by the Earth's atmosphere pushing us down. He carefully explained to me that on other planets, which did not have an atmosphere, there was no gravity. We then spent some more time on gravity, reading page 92 "Why are small bodies like potatoes?" of Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun and watching several Stephen Hawking videos which explain how gravity has played a vital part in the entire life of the universe (An Imperfect Universe, The Birth of Stars, Supernovas, Formation of the Solar System).

Our cumulative project for this Physics block will be to try to build a Rube Goldberg Machine, after we learn about potential vs. kinetic energy, the meaning of work, and the simple machines.

To this end, we watched the TED talk by OK Go about how they come up with the ideas for their music videos: OK Go: How to Find a Wonderful Idea. We discussed the importance of play, and talked about how to add play as a subject in our plan books. (With colorful gel pens, of course.)

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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