Thanks to some "out of the box" thinking by math teacher Maegan Skoubo and a grant by the Raymond School Foundation the RHS 7th-graders were able to participate in a learning lab at iFly Seattle.
Students often think math and science is boring and that it has no connection to things outside the classroom, let alone a connection to their life. Ms. Skoubo wanted to give her students the opportunity to see math and science in the real world. She took them to iFly in Seattle. Students spent the day collaborating with their peers performing experiments, using tools to collect data and forming conclusions based on their results. They were immersed in math and science all day.
The Middle School Education Program at iFLY used iFLY's unique vertical wind tunnel facility to make STEM exciting, relevant, and accessible to students. The curriculum was designed by educators and scientists to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning in the classroom. The students participated in:
- Interactive STEM presentation, delivered by iFLY STEM Educator
- Physics demonstration in the wind tunnel
- Classroom experiment to investigate the effects of parachute parameters on flight performance
- Flying instruction & safety training
- Flying time, with one-on-one supervision from a highly-trained and certified instructor
- Pre and post-field trip activities to conduct in the classroom
The learning objectives included:
- Increasing awareness of exciting STEM careers
- Learning how STEM is used in the real-world
- Understanding the nature of fluids and how they exert forces on solid objects
- Using algebraic thinking to understand proportional relationships
- Using decimal, scientific notation, and unit conversions to do calculations
- Graphing and interpreting results
- Understanding variability, uncertainty, and error in experimental results
The program began with a lecture and discussion with iFLY STEM Educators to introduce STEM concepts related to the wind tunnel. Students discussed the differences between solids and fluids and identified air as a fluid. They also learned that air can exert a force on objects and discussed the different forces at work in the wind tunnel. They talked about how changing the shape or "frontal area" of an object affects its speed in the wind tunnel.
The wind tunnel demonstration segment used various objects such as inflatable balls to show how the "terminal velocity" (the air velocity required to "fly" the object) depends on an object's size, shape, and weight. Students predicted which balls would fly at the fastest speeds and then checked their predictions.
Students then moved into a classroom and broke into 2's and 3's to carry out an investigation. They used scales and measuring tapes to measure the masses and surface areas of the demonstration balls using SI units (international system of units). iFLY Educators helped the students create an Excel graph of the relationships between mass, frontal area, and velocity. The class analyzed the data together, then used it to make connections to other applications of wind tunnel testing. Each student predicted his/her own terminal velocity in the wind tunnel. In other words, they predicted how fast the air in the wind tunnel needed to move to make each student "float”. The students used algebraic reasoning to solve the air drag equation for "v". The groups then used measuring tapes and scales to determine their weight and frontal area. During their flights, an instructor recorded their actual terminal velocities. Afterwards, the students compared their actual velocities to their predicted values. They then discussed and brainstormed the reasons for any errors.
This was a great learning opportunity. Pictures can be seen at the District slideshow on the District home page (www.raymondk12.org).