Last weekend’s entertainment was watching geese attempt to land on the ice-covered quarry lake. They sailed in toward the surface as if it were a normal water landing, fanning their wings to slow down, tails spread in black and white chevrons, feet aimed to brake. Only at the last second did they seem to grasp that something was different, but it was too late – they were off in a wild, uncontrolled skid that ended only when they collided with another goose.
This activity was reminiscent of the JE kids this winter, during a unit spent learning about simple machines, gravity, laws of motion, and friction.
After practicing and illustrating these concepts in the classroom with pizza box pinball games and wooden cars, we wanted to test them outdoors. Gravity pulled us down the hill into the woods, where we searched for surfaces with reduced friction. Sure enough, along the stream several patches of ice proved large enough to slide and spin on.
Just a week or so before this, we had received enough snow to blanket the steep hillside above the playing field. Jemicy’s long tradition of sledding during recess was quickly revived, with all manner of sleds racing down the hill.
During aftercare, we set up tests to see if we could extend our runs by changing different variables: running first for momentum, sitting vs. lying down, saucers vs. rectangular sleds.
We watched with regret over the course of the week as the snow eventually melted into muddy tracks and the ice into puddles. But today a new storm system pushed more snow our way, school closed early, and one six year old left the science room singing, “Inertia, inertia – I’m gonna go play with inertia!”