Win-Win-Win-Win

Have I mentioned I teach high school?  Oh yes, I have.  This is the time of year when numerous people ask “how much longer?”  I never count down days until June, but June is indeed very soon.  We always end mid-to-late June, about the third week.  Yes, I know colleges are out.  No, we do not end unusually late.  Our school year starts after Labor day and by law must include 180 student days.  My own high school graduation was in the last week of June, much later than graduation at the school I currently teach in.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.

My AP class took their exam on Monday afternoon.  That means we have time before the end of the year with no set curriculum.  We have done all the topics we were supposed to do.  So now what?

I always let my classes have some say in what happens post-exam.  I offer the opportunities to learn about special and general relativity, or quantum mechanics, or more advanced electronics.  I offer possible projects.  Kids make suggestions.  Last year one group made a trebuchet and the rest of the students added amplifiers to the construction-paper speakers we’d already built. We used LM-386 op-amps in the amplifier circuit, and enclosed the speakers in cardboard boxes, including an on/off switch, power-indicating LED, and an input jack for attaching a portable music player.

This year all 12 students agreed on making a Rube Goldberg machine.  We watched the Peter Fischli and David Weiss movie Der Lauf Der Dinge (The Way Things Go) earlier this year.  On Tuesday we looked at some videos on YouTube such as this one.  Then we took over a rarely-used classroom and started rearranging the tables and planning a path for energy transfers to take place, eventually to result in stapling two papers together.

Among the supplies I have provided are ping-pong balls, plastic slinkies, 6-volt lantern batteries, old CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs, clothes hangers, wire, string, and a couple of boxes of pneumatic cylinders and connectors.  And a moderate reel of flexible clear plastic tubing.

I am thrilled to be watching my students explore, create, and build.  One student took over the pneumatic equipment, making intricate air-filled “circuits” that move pistons in complex ways.  Some are planning trains and dominoes.  Others have made a switch from an extending slinky and some aluminum foil, turning on a fan to blow a ball up a ramp and onto another electrical switch.  Pulleys have been hung and at least two bowling balls will be involved.  Yes, we are taking pictures, and there will be video.

My students are stretching their minds and learning, plus they are having a great time, I am having fun watching, and I don’t have to plan any more lessons for that class.  The less guidance I give, the better!  Well, except for the occasional “no, that is too dangerous” or “no, you may not damage the furniture or cabinetry.”

Win-win-win-win.

4 Responses to “Win-Win-Win-Win”

  1. Anne Says:

    Do you remember the Rube Goldberg machine Amy made for her shop class? We have a picture of it at Sunset Lake, and I think it is still in the attic (one more thing to dispose of before we move). It’s final step was to turn on a fan and blow bubbles, and it worked!

    Your mention of a trebuchet made me wonder if you have seen our movie of the big one in Greenfield, NH, built by a couple of local dentists and their friends. Here’s the link:

    http://web.mac.com/joel_huberman/iWeb/Site/Punkin%27%20Chunkin%27.html

    They have a lot of fun taking it to contests!

  2. Life and … goggles? « TeaWithBuzz Says:

    […] of this cold over with tomorrow because next week is a busy one—the AP kids are finishing their Rube Goldberg machine, we are going to film it, and the seniors have their last day of classes on Wednesday. I’m […]

  3. Strawberry Pie, etc « TeaWithBuzz Says:

    […] a great time with my kids last year, and I’m looking forward to being able to show you the Rube Goldberg machine they made when they finally get the video put together!  I amazed some friends at dinner Saturday […]

  4. Mishmash of Stuff « TeaWithBuzz Says:

    […] Swans on Tea linked to this cool YouTube video of a Rube Goldberg machine used as an advertisement (much different from Honda’s “cog” ad, this one is more traditional Rube Goldberg and less like The Way Things Go (see this post). […]

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