Thursday was my last day at Central of the semester. I’ll admit, I’m ready for a Christmas vacation to recharge a bit and digest all the things I’ve been learning (as well as clear my system of the school lunches!). The students were overjoyed today, not because they knew that break was quickly approaching, but because their lesson involved playing with Matchbox cars. They are still working on their motion unit which includes forces, speed, velocity, distance/time graphs, and Newton’s 3 laws. The matchbox cars were used to illustrate all the forces acting on objects. Each group of students picked out their favorite car, tied a 6″ piece of string to it, and tied a paper clip to the end of the string. The cars were placed perpendicular to and a few inches back from the table. The string, with paperclip, was allowed to dangle over the edge of the table. Students observed what happened to the car as successive paperclips (with known mass) were added to the string.
This was, by far, the most effective object lesson that I’ve seen yet. The students easily grasped gravity, the force exerted upwards by the table, tension exerted on the car by the string, and friction between the car wheels and the table surface. Curiously, they also didn’t go crazy with the cars and stayed directly on task. Thus, my question is, why toy cars? What focusing appeal do they have compared to other object-lesson items?