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«  April 2015  »
Home » 2015 » April » 10 » An Effective Demonstration for Teaching the Conservation of Mechanical Energy by George Evers
An Effective Demonstration for Teaching the Conservation of Mechanical Energy by George Evers

The primary goal of our lesson was to teach grade 9 (G9) the basics of conservation of energy in a memorable way.  Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change forms; and some energy is wasted when changed from one form to another.  For example, friction changes some kinetic energy into heat, motors produce noise, and some machines even produce light.  Heat, sound, and light are common ways that energy is wasted as a machine operates.

In the case of a pendulum, there's also air resistance: some of the initial potential energy is lost as the pendulum bob (i.e. the pan hung from a thin rope in the video) collides with air molecules, transferring kinetic energy to them.  As a result, when the pendulum bob returns toward its beginning position, it will not return to quite the same height because some of its energy has been lost along the way.

A second goal was to guide students via effective questioning to answer their own questions.  When we ask guiding questions instead of just telling students what to do, we model an effective problem-solving process. This helps them develop their own such thought processes in addition to knowledge.

A third goal was to give students practice with Cambridge-style structured questions.  As I've taught around the world, I've noticed that teachers often test students with informal language and different question types than they will see on their end-of-year exams.  It's only fair that we give students practice with conceptual questions phrased in formal English like those on actual Cambridge exams.  Based on my experience successfully preparing students, this type of practice helps them remain calm and confident when taking an actual exam.

Since As and A level questions are designed for grades 11 and 12 respectively, we used O level questions for this G9 lesson.  These proved appropriate as evidenced by the fact that the students found them challenging but were able to solve them when asked effective guiding questions.

This demonstration was inspired by a YouTube video of Dr. Walter Lewin at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  A short video clip of that lecture is available here:

My co-teacher for the lesson was Mrs. Кулайхан Танабаева.

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