The first week is charged up with energy, so there is no better way to convert some of that into motion than a lab. The 8th grade physics class took to the open halls to really get a handle on the graphical relationship between velocity, distance, time, and acceleration. We use Vernier’s LoggerPro for our graphical analysis and motion detectors.  Students, equipped with rules, masking tape, and some trepidation, head out into the hall to perform the graph matching lab.  This seems to be a yearly favorite, so it’s a lab I bring back year after year by popular demand.  It’s hard not to notice students moving back in forth in front of the “click, click, click” of the motion detector. The Vernier LoggerPro lab called “Graph Matching” is an excellent way for students to visualize the very important and fundamental concepts of reading a graph and relating that to real life motion.  First, the students analyze a given distance vs. time graph to try to figure out what type of motion has occurred. What adds a neat twist is the fact that students BECOME the object, standing in front of the motion detector, trying to mimic the existing graph.  A horizontal line takes on new life as “Stop! Don’t move!”.  A slope turns into a  “move back! don’t speed up! just move!” It’s a great 2-3 student lab activity.  When students grasp this concept, they are able to attempt a velocity vs. time graph.  Again, horizontal lines, slopes, negative and positive – all come to life with real life action.  I’ll admit, it’s my favorite lab to watch –  an accidental jump when the velocity increases, pulling their shirts taut so a ripple doesn’t ruin a perfect match to the graph – it’s great for students to take on the language of physics when talking to their classmates.  It was a great start to the physics class year, and their interest has accelerated as well! Pictures to follow!

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About Tina Duver

Tina Duver is the Dean of Middle School Students at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York. She is the 6th and 8th Grade Science Teacher and coach of the First Lego League team and U.S. Department of Energy Science Bowl team.

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