Kinetic Energy

Mr. Macha’s class has been learning about kinetic energy. This week the students explored this further in an activity. They predicted the final temperature when equal parts 50°C water and 10°C water are combined. We showed them the materials available to the class (boiling water, ice water, graduated cylinders, thermometers, lots of cups). Then, they wrote down what steps they would take to answer this question. After discussing it as a class, they were turned loose to find their answer. Each group wrote their answer in a table on the board and Ms. Cochran (Mr. Macha’s student teacher) discussed the results and how they relate to kinetic energy. Once again, some of the groups had an incredibly hard time following directions. What amazes me, though, is that they couldn’t follow their own directions! While each group came up with their own protocol, each student wrote those methods in his/her lab notebook. They were instructed to make any necessary changes during the class discussion. Yet, several groups still couldn’t complete the lab on the first try. Some needed someone to stand at the table to ask them what they were doing at each step. Is asking them to follow a simple set of directions too much? Is there any way to get them to improve on this skill or should one just plan on some groups always needing additional supervision to complete activities?


About Sarah Schmidt

I am a PhD candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Kansas. I study prairie rivers and I am especially interested in algal communities and using lipids to explore food webs.
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