To Feel Science in Your Bones

AP Physics students moved back and forth between theory and practice today in an exercise inspired by physics educator Eugenia Etkina, and I got distracted from Writing Lab by their awesomeness. After reading and discussing models for understanding force and circular motion, the students moved to the center of the school with a rope and some roller skates. One student stood in the middle, holding an end of the rope firmly. Mr. Romero, on skates, held the other end of the rope and directed a second student to push him at varying speeds. Kids took time experiencing both roles.

Toward the end of the exercise, Mr. Romero explained how the force toward the center causes circular motion. He reminded students:

When people hear this explanation, they hear “science science science” or the sound adults make on Charlie Brown. But the purpose of this exercise was so that you feel it in your bones. This is how the universe works.

Isn’t that the ultimate learning goal — to have such a personally meaningful experience with a concept that your understanding becomes lodged “in your bones”? What would instruction look like if we placed those kinds of experiences at the center of our planning?

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