Hewitt News

Drop, Slide, Roll: Forces in Action
Launa Schweizer, Head of Middle School

Last week, grade 7 science students presented to their peers the results of several experiments that they designed to determine how objects move in space when they are dropped, roll, or slid. Like Galileo is said to have done over 400 years before, they designed ways to learn, through several trials, some of the basic laws of physics.

To prepare for the lesson, students first considered what they knew, and developed a hypothesis. Their experiments, done with recycled materials like tissue boxes, cardboard, golf balls, sheets of paper, and yardsticks, allowed them to test out their hypotheses.

Their teacher, Mr. Goodall, helped them to hone their questions, but didn’t tell them how exactly to study each question. This method of inquiry-based instruction has been demonstrated to increase students’ intellectual engagement, and is an approach that teachers apply in many areas of study at Hewitt. Thus, rather than following a teacher’s instructions for a particular inquiry, students designed their own, and tested out their investigations, recording their findings using video.

When they presented, they demonstrated deep curiosity, a hallmark of a Hewitt education. “Our data didn’t support our hypothesis,” one group said. “So we did some research to figure out why.” The girls described finding an article about acceleration, and then described the principle in a straightforward and clear manner. They explained that acceleration is the rate of change of the speed of an object over time, and also spoke about how friction from cardboard or drag from the air might interact with the objects they had dropped, slid, and rolled.

At that point they turned to their teacher, curious for more information. Mr. Goodall helped to explain why the results came out as they had, and then provided more questions for the students to ponder. It was exciting to hear students using accurate scientific language to describe their hypotheses, results, and findings, and even more exciting to hear them beginning to ask the kinds of questions that will power their study of science for years to come.