SCHOOL: Cedar Fork Elementary
PROGRAM: Funky Forces
This past week, I spent two full days with seven amazing classes at Cedar Fork Elementary School teaching our Funky Forces program. This awesome physics program exposes kids to science they’ve learned about in class or experienced in real-life, like gravity and magnets, but never really had the chance to experiment with as much as they might like.
We start with a few minutes of discussion about force and gravity, but it always picks up when I bring out the first experiment we do as a group. As a class, we come up with a hypothesis for what will happen when I place a ping-pong ball over a hairdryer and turn it on. Whether they guess right or wrong, it’s always a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” every time the ping-pong ball levitates in the air, even as you turn the hairdryer further and further to the side until it seems almost impossible!
My favorite part of the program is the magnet lab, though. As we get older, we start to take magnets for granted.They’re just things we stick on our fridge to hold up to-do lists, or ways to stick bumper stickers on our cars. But every time I teach this program, I get to watch a whole new group of kids experiment with this crazy, invisible force all over again! I always give students enough direction to know how they work and what they can do, but it’s always so cool to watch them make these magnets move, flip, and stick to other objects.
The smiles on kid’s faces when they discover that they can move a magnet on top of their desk with a magnet below it is priceless! Even with the full understanding that they are causing that magnet to move, there’s always something just short of magical to see an inanimate object moving apparently all on its own. Even at almost five times their age, I can never get over how wild it really seems.
This program is such a great experience because it takes mundane ideas and objects that are part of everyday life (like gravity and wind and magnets) and shows them just how amazing they can be when used scientifically. And that’s really what science is: finding the amazing in the ordinary! After this program, kids went home with a new appreciation for how the world works and a new interest in figuring out even more of it for themselves.