Keeping time and measuring gravity

Alzar School | 03.04.15

Between spring break and a wilderness advanced first aid class, we took a hiatus from classes for a little while.  Getting the physics team back together this week, we started off by reflecting on our learning so far this semester.  Physics is a science with an awful lot of ways to quantify motion in our world, so we all brainstormed all the different quantities we’ve manipulated throughout the year.

Between capital, Greek letters, and subscripts, the language of physics has a lot to keep track of

In our current unit, students are studying oscillations and harmonic motion.  During their break, students were charged with finding an oscillating object or creating one, then making some basic determinations of period, frequency, and maximum velocity of their object.  Emma set up a bungee jumping bucket, Chris noticed the oscillations of our kitchen’s spring-loaded sprayer, and Hailey created a pendulum with her iPad charger.

Connecting the elegance to physics to our daily dirty work

Lately, we have been exploring the differences between simple pendulums (basically a small heavy thing swinging back and forth) and a physical pendulum (an object pivoting relatively close to its center of mass).  To give some context to the very analytical problems we solved in class, we spent some time on the front porch swinging an ax back and forth to represent a physical pendulum, and explored how the period changed as the pivot point moved.  Perhaps the students even thought about it as they were chopping wood later that afternoon.