Day 43: Zombie Apocalypse lab

Physics: Handed back papers. Gave out review Qs for tomorrow. Reviewed homework. Went around to check and noticed that a bunch of students hadn’t started the homework before class. I’m not sure whether or not I’m concerned enough about that to put a policy in place to force their hand or let them choose what they need to do to study, since the ones not doing homework tend to do pretty well on major assessments anyway, and I have such mixed feeling about homework overall.

Honors Physics: We finished reviewing the rotational motion lab and then continued working on the Knight workbook conceptual questions about moment of inertia and energy. There were some good conversations, and it was interesting to see how much more challenging it was for the Honors kids than the AP kids. The overall ability level between the three classes is stark, but it’s a fun challenge to find all the different appropriate levels to explain ideas, when to use math, when to use pictures, when to use both, when to have them stand up and do something, and on and on.

AP Physics: I decided that this lab is about the best improvised tool to choose in the event of a zombie apocalypse between the two rotational inertia tubes. It’s assessed based on how well they used physics to justify their choice compared to the one they didn’t choose. I told them at the beginning this is purposely ill-defined, and it’s their job as physicists to first decide what does it mean to be the “best tool” and what can they measure about the two things and compare with calculations to make a decision. The conversations sprang to life immediately, almost entirely in Chinese, so I had to ask them to please speak English so I could understand their conversations and give feedback. I wish I didn’t have to do that, because it’s my inability to speak Chinese that is limiting their conversations, but I don’t know if I can add learning a new language on top of teaching full time, getting a masters, and all of my additional side-jobs and activities.

It’s kind of amazing. I told them to group up however they wanted, and three groups immediately formed. One to argue about what different things mean, one doing calculations and modeling, and a third taking measurements and actually fooling with the physical tubes to see what they can figure out. The conversations are so loud and so energetic and 100% on topic. This is fantastic.

Some students have obviously not had weapons training:
Student: But if you hold it in the middle, you’re going to hit yourself with it when you swing.
Me: Only if you’re REALLY BAD at it!
Student: *blink* *blink* Oh.

The second class approached it very differently. They did two groups, each analyzing one stick and then switching. They’re approaching it much more experimentally to see how many times per minute they can swing each one, how far they can hit a tennis ball, and figure what else they can measure to help them figure out which one would be the best. They’re also just swinging them around a lot and arguing over which one “feels” better. This is so ridiculously much fun.


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