Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Archive for December 31st, 2010

Party Popper Lab

Posted on: December 31, 2010

Am I the only teacher that spent half of the holiday break grading papers and working on lessons?  Here is a lab my students will be working on when they come back from break on Monday.  I figure it will give me a day or two to settle in without having to get up front and teach.

We just finished Newton’s Laws before break, what better way to refresh their memory than making them think.  I got this lab from the NSTA regional conference in Baltimore, it is called “Inquiry in a Box” and presented by Deborah Roudebush.  I put the instructions into a format my students are more familiar with and I expect they will need two days to get their arms around the whole thing.  What is very different about this lab (compliments to Deborah) is that the students are given only the problem to solve, some minimal tools, and no instructions.  They need to figure it all out on their own.  It could be a disaster, I fully expect a lot of whining.

The basic idea is that the half ball Party Popper shown above is a cool little science experiment.  Giving them only a ruler and access to a gram scale, they need to figure out how to determine the velocity, time, and force exerted by the popping event.  At the conference, we were put into groups of four and set about solving the problems.  It didn’t take us too long, but there were some very good discussions on when the time and acceleration actually occurs.  There will be no answers posted here, some of my students know about this site.  If you need some help, email me.

Here is the lab handout:  Popper Lab Handout

Now, you would think these little poppers are easy to come by…  good luck!  I went to many toy stores and party stores and found none.  I ended up online at Oriental Trading Company.  Their 1.5″ poppers are great, their 0.75″ are going back, they don’t work at all.  I found another place selling them; Century Novelty.  I’m ordering 1″ poppers from them.  The key here is you have to plan ahead for this lab, you can’t run out to the store the day before and find them easily.  I won’t have the 1″ poppers in time for this year, but next year I plan for them to analyze different size poppers and compare the results.

What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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Just a quick poll to help me understand who is stopping by my blog.