Thursday, February 2, 2012

Elementary science lesson

I love my Newton's cradle, and various versions have amused me for decades now. Harrod's popularized them as desktop toys way back when, but not because they're scientifical.

They're just plain fun.

They're also as obvious as the nose on a polar bear's face. Five balls banging against each other, in unexpected yet predictable and repeatable ways.

Just don't use the words inertia or force, or, Zeus forbid, Newton's Third Law.

Give a pair of children a Newton's cradle. Hold up a ball (or let one of them do it), and let it fall.
Hold up two, and do the same.

Have the children take turns predicting what will happen.

Then put the toys away for a few days.

No worksheets. No quizzes. No fancy words. Just a piece of the universe delivered unadulterated to the few minds left on Earth capable of seeing things for what they simply are.

Newton's cradle by DemonDeluxe via Wikiedia, unde CC


Mary Ann Reilly said...

Begin with play.
Simple, yes?

John T. Spencer said...

Joel is trying to figure out if the days are getting longer. To him, the sunrise is earlier and so is the sunset. Is he right? Is it a significant amount? How significant? How much? How fast?

I could pull up a chart and let him see the sunrise and sunset. However, I would rather let him observe. He knows that spring is happening and that his playtime is extending. He's wondering if the green is from the increase in sunlight or the increase in temperature.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

We both know play is the heart of both science and art, or rather the heart of this human thing. (Science is a subset of art.)

Simple, indeed.

Dear John,

The green question is an interesting one.

At some point he's going to want to consume those charts like water on a desert hike. Once a child realizes there are patterns upon patterns, one more interesting than the next, they cannot help themslves.

Joel is extremely fortunate to have the parents he has.

John T. Spencer said...

When do you think the charts become age appropriate?

doyle said...

When a child's curious enough to seek them.