Some classes are pass-fail. For some physics students at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, a recent class was more of the sink-or-swim variety.
The Martin Luther King Swim Center in Silver Spring was the setting for their Oct. 30 lesson on Newton’s three laws of physics, as teacher Jacob Abrams wanted to offer them what he called “the right mix of challenging and stimulation.”
Abrams had 60 students from four different classes apply Newton’s laws to a boat race in the pool.
The project involved 12 boats, and students examined the use of force when paddling to move the boards.
“Newton’s three laws of physics can be applied to everything we do in life,” Abrams wrote in an email to The Gazette. The project’s goal “was to get them out of their seat, and apply what they had been reading and learning.”
Students built and raced their own boats, but were graded only on their analyses and explanations of how push, pull, gravity, buoyancy, static friction, sliding friction and Newton’s laws were at work.
Out of the 12 watercraft, two sank, six made it halfway and four made it across the pool.
“I figure anything that bores them will bore me, and if they are excited and enjoying my class, then it makes me a pretty happy person, too,” Abrams said.
The students’ feedback, he said, was “all the smiles while rowing their boats” during the race.
“They came right to class and wouldn’t even sit in their desks. The project was always greeted with excitement and wonder,” he said