Inquiry. The buzzword of the day. How does it relate to science? Easy; it is science!
How to make it meaningful is the real question. How do we engage students and make it relevant to them? What can draw them in? What will impact them at a deeper level?
For me, it was car crashes. Momentum involves studying collisions and there are a lot of crashes with teens learning to drive. Add to the fact that my city is a giant hill and the lesson just kind of built itself. We would study materials to see what could protect you in the case of a crash.
Smart Carts, SparkVue and a random assortment of materials. Styrofoam, rubber, cotton, what would work best? The students had preconceived ideas…perfect.
I turned them loose with the barest of hints. What are you worried about in a crash? What should we measure? What situations do we need to test?
They picked random materials and got to it. The discussions were great! Arguments about what to use, how to set it up, how to measure, what to measure. They looked to me to settle disputes and I said “Work it out yourselves. You can do this.” Here’s what they came up with.
Doing the two graph setup measuring velocity vs time and force vs time they could identify when the collision took place easily. They could use the area of the force-time graph to calculate impulse.
The results surprised them. That lead to more questions. And that is what science, and inquiry, is all about.