Thursday, May 5, 2011

Need. More. Inquiry.

The talk of today is our baseball team. Last night was another sweep for them and we are now 16-0 on the season. GO BRAVES!!

My Applied Physics classes are in the middle of a project, but they came in talking about the games and ended up with a LOT of questions about pitching and how fast our pitchers can throw. What is a good speed for a high school thrower? What do the pros throw? Middle school? How fast do our pitchers throw? Can I throw faster?

Now, I am really not up on my baseball stats,* so I didn't have much in the way of answers. I do know that a good throw in the majors is in the upper 90s, but honestly, that mostly comes from watching Major League. I wasn't really satisfied with my answers and neither were my kids. They wanted to know if we could we test it out?

It's May.

State Assessments are over.

It IS a physics class.

It's May.

So we rounded up some baseballs and went outside.

The first question out the door was, "what about all this wind?" My first thought was to have them figure out the wind speed, but someone had an iphone and just looked it up for us. Maybe I'll have them figure out how to calculate that later.

So we took measurements throwing into the wind and throwing with the wind.

At first, everyone started throwing as far as they could. After some preliminary calculations, there were to big realizations. First off, those baseballs were not going very fast at all. But the big issue came about when the boys realized that the girls were actually throwing faster than they were.

Adjustments were made.

There was a great discussion about the number of steps each person should be allowed and whether or not there should be a minimum distance for it to count.

Aside from a narrow concussion miss by our cameraman, there were no real glitches.

We then tracked down our varsity pitchers and asked them to estimate how fast they can throw a ball. They weren't too sure, so our homework for Friday night is to find out. A couple of kids even realized that they were going to have to convert their meters/second measurements in to feet/second measurements to be able to do that comparison. The only thing I could think here was that if this was on a worksheet, a majority of those kids wouldn't even have noticed that difference in labels.

I really, REALLY want to do more things like this. Even the kids who didn't have the questions to begin with got into the project.

My big issue is what types of projects to do. I have no idea. I am not very good at coming up with open-ended questions, and a lot of the questions I have found seem to be too advanced for my kids. Although after the roller coasters and catapults, maybe I'm underestimating some of their math skills.

I also have a tough time just letting kids come up with their own questions. I don't mind the lab part and kind of thrive on the chaos, I just want to be sure there is some actual learning going on. So I need to find a way to set it up for everyone to be happy and know what the heck is going on.

Anyone have any resources or suggestions?

*I don't hate baseball, but I don't love it, either. My husband is, unfortunately, a Royals fan, so maybe that's why I don't pay much attention.

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