I teach one section of AP Physics through an accelerated block in order to cover two years of material (P1 and P2) in one year. They started the standard Ball Bounce Lab yesterday. I gave them very little direction to set up. Basically, I pulled a bunch of different balls out, told them I wanted to know which one is the “bounciest” and said, “Go.” Eventually all groups arrived at the same experimental setup of measuring drop height vs. bounce height and recorded and plotted their data. Giving students the opportunity to be self-directed and then watching them come through is very rewarding.
Today, I used the above problem from the Modeling Instruction in Physics Curriculum as a “Do Now” to gauge their grasp of proportionality. There was a lot of uncertainty in their responses, so it turned into a mini-lesson, and I’m going to have to make sure I explicitly address proportionality in the next couple of labs.
The good stuff came after, during the board meeting. Some groups used inches; some groups used centimeters. Perfect, let’s talk about SI units. Some groups did multiple trials; some groups only did one. Perfect, let’s talk about the importance of large sample sizes and about uncertainty in data. Labeling, lines of best fit, finding slope, y-intercept and what these values mean–all of this comes naturally through the group discussion in the board meeting.
Sounds great, right? Only one problem. This section of AP Physics has 33 students. This is the largest group I have ever tried to conduct a board meeting with. It wasn’t easy. I try to get out of the way as much as possible during these meetings. The first one always requires more guidance because it’s the first one, but this huge class gives students plenty of opportunity to hide, or worse, check out. This very likely will be an issue all year long, and I’m already trying to think of ways to adapt to the large class count. For now, I have to figure out how to do a Buggy Lab with only five buggies and 33 scientists. To be continued…