It was my last Mangled Mess for the 2014-15 year. I have a break now until after our Summer Reading programming. I both love and am sad about this. I like getting that break from the science, so I don’t get burned out; I can recuperate. I can stop and think. I can stop trying to cram bits of physics information into my brain. It keeps me from fizzling out and losing the all important motivation and drive.
It also gives me time to think about all the projects I want to do with the kids next year. ALL. THE. PROJECTS. Seriously, all the things. The possibilities are endless. (See what I mean about motivation and drive? I’ve had two weeks away from the mess and I’m already rearing to go!) I’m seeing etching glass and popsicle stick chain reactions and all sorts of craziness.
For my April’s MM, I decided to talk about mechanical energy, which I then broke down to Potential and Kinetic energy. We talked about the different types of energy, discussed their definitions, and looked at their equations. I had a couple demonstrations, where I jumped off a chair to really hammer the point home. We talked about where they see various types of energy everyday, and how it affects our everyday lives.
Then, experiment time. What better way to demonstrate the concepts we were talking about than with elastic bands. The BIG experiment was making wind-up wooden dowel cars with the elastic bands, but before we got to that, I wanted them to play around with the elastics themselves. Who didn’t love shooting elastic bands across the room, seeing how far it could go with a single stretch, tempting the fate and testing elasticity by pulling farther and farther back?
We started with elastics, obviously. I gave them thin ones and thick ones. We touched them, feeling how cool they were. Then we stretched them quickly once and let them relax and felt for heat again. Then we stretched them multiple times, and felt for heat again. Some kids felt the change in heat better than others. The larger elastics worked best for this exercise, as you might imagine. The whole purpose was to illustrate how energy gives off heat, which we hear about, but it’s nice to actually observe.
Next, I gave the kids each a ruler and we experimented (after I laid the “If you point or shoot your elastic at anyone, you are done for the day and going upstairs. No second chances.”) which stretch and distance and the relationship between the two.
I had them shoot the elastic bands across the room from various stretched points. We started at 5 inches and worked our way up. They pulled the elastics all the way back to 1 foot, and sometimes further. The kids even got some elastics to make it the entire length of the room! They did this experiment with the thin elastics and the thick ones. The thin ones definitely were easier to stretch, and so went farther. One issue we did have was that not all of the rulers were as sturdy as they could be, which in turn made the stretching difficult (since it’s hard to stretch the elastic when the ruler is bending in on itself. So…we had some sharing, which we all need to practice.)
Finally, it was time to make and race the bobbin cars. I found a fun tutorial from She Knows.com and went from there. We had a bunch of wooden bobbins in our programming cabinet from who knows when, and I wanted to use them up, and what a perfect way to do so. Our bobbins were smaller than the ones in the picture, but still worked fairly well. However the elastics were a bit too long for our cars, so we had a lot of winding to do, and that meant they got a bit too wound and too tangled, so they didn’t always go as straight as they could have (say if our elastics were shorter and our bobbins bigger.) But, as I told the kids, it leaves room for experimentation. Find a shorter elastic and try it. Get a bigger bobbin and see what happens. All in all, it was a great class and very fun. Well, it’s storytime today! And depending on the weather, I will either be swamped or playing to an empty house. Time will tell. Have a wonderful afternoon.