By Allison Dorko
Over the past month, PBIS classrooms have been wrapping up the Vehicles in Motion unit, in which students test and redesign coaster cars to learn the physical science concepts of motion, gravity, friction, and force. In addition, students are learning science skills such as developing procedures, collecting and analyzing data, and collaborating with fellow student scientists. The cars have a wooden frame and several types of wheels, axles, and bearings. Additionally, rubberband-driven propellers sit on the backs of the cars. The propeller-car project is part of the “Vehicles in Motion” unit of the Project-Based Inquiry Science (PBIS) instructional resource. PBIS was selected by a 20-member task force made up of teachers, UMaine faculty and graduate students which followed a rigorous American Association for the Advancement of Science–adapted protocol to evaluate the resources.
Teachers have noted that students speak like scientists, using technical vocabulary like “bearings,” “force,” and “friction” as they experiment with and test their cars. One teacher noted “overall, the kids are enjoying the coaster cars and are really trying to think of ways to improve their car’s performance. The motivation for my groups is great!!”
The end goal of the cars is not to create a car that travels the fastest or the farthest, but to predict the car’s motion. Therefore, the classroom atmosphere is highly inclusive, as there is no one “winner” but many students who can predict their cars’ movements and explain why. A teacher said “my kids are getting more comfortable with, and better at, presenting…I’ve really been impressed by the leadership qualities being developed in some of my kids by this teamwork.” Some students have decorated their cars (see photos below). The cars from Lori Matthew’s students were featured on Channels 2 and 5 news on Thursday, February 10, see clips:
- Ch 2 - http://www.wlbz2.com/news/article/188900/315/Hampden-students-learn-a-new-way”http://www.wlbz2.com/news/article/188900/315/Hampden-students-learn-a-new-way
- Ch 5 - http://www.wabi.tv/news/27513/schools-educators-encourage-students-to-get-excited-about-science
The Energy unit that follows will introduce students to a wide range of physics and chemistry topics as they study kinetic, potential, chemical, thermal, electrical, mechanical, light and sound energy.