Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Science or Engineering and a Pendulum

Today was the second class in my Teaching Elementary School Science and Math course. Last week we explored what it means to think and act like a scientist by using our science process skills to explore surface tension and the properties of water drops. Today we briefly explored the content of the elementary school science curriculum and then looked at the difference between science and engineering. The perfect way to do this is to explore the properties of a pendulum. We explored three variables to see  which of them affected the speed of the pendulum; the length, the weight or the release position. After some exploration the students decided only the length affected the time of the swing. They also discovered that if there is more weight and the release  position is higher the pendulum will swing for a longer time.

With this new-found scientific knowledge I then challenged the students to make a pendulum clock that swung exactly 15 times in 15 seconds. The activity had segued into an engineering activity because they were now using their scientific knowledge to solve a problem. In science the questions arise from the natural world; in engineering they arise from how we use our knowledge of science to answer questions of our adaptation to the natural world, or how to invent things or solve problems.

Here is the most amazing pendulum video I have ever seen; from harmony to chaos and back again, over and over, just like life.

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