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Real world experiences unlock opportunities to reinforce traditional learning. Kids are more apt to retain information when they receive it is as part of a pleasurable experience.
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Playgrounds are kid magnets,
sending a friendly beacon from a distance that fun awaits! The familiar
movements of swinging, sliding, spinning, bouncing and climbing are a great
starting point to showing them what's what in physics by conducting some fun
Got that swing?
Good, because it’s time to
learn all about pendulums. This motion isn’t possible without the force of
gravity, and swings make the perfect learning vessels. Using a stopwatch, a
swing and a sampling of friends of different sizes, test if chain length and
weight can impact the timing of the swing making its arc.
Test out some fun variations,
such as seeing how many swings it takes to come to a stop, and whether a smaller
child gets more swings in than a larger one. Do they go faster when taking
longer arcs or shorter arcs? Discover more ideas with this blog posted by Scientific
From there, keep an eye out
for real-world examples of pendulums, such as clocks, machinery and even
amusement park rides.
How can you go
super-fast on a slide?
No gravity, no sliding. What
you have is the perfect tool to show how different variables can affect how
fast you can race to the bottom.
With that, it’s time for
another series of speed experiments with a mission of going down a slide with
the most possible speed.
Using the trusty stopwatch
and the tallest slide you can find, test variations. Does a larger child slide
more quickly than a smaller child? What happens if you slide laying on your
back versus sitting up? What does clothing material do to the timing, such as
denim versus smooth polyester?
Water parks can also impart
other insightful lessons about gravity. With their steeper angles, dizzying
heights and friction-free water jets, they boldly bring something close to a
free-fall experience. With that, they’ll “see” the intention behind the design
of any slide. Is the slide meant for daredevils or small children?
Other physics fun to
find on the playground
So what about other
playground equipment? It depends on what your local playground has to offer.
Use the teeter-totter to show
how simple machines can be helpful in lifting heavy objects. Is it easier to
lift a sibling with your arms or at the edge of a teeter-totter?
Place a small object on the
merry-go-round — see what happens if you place it in the center versus setting
it near the edge.
Spin them on the tire swing
and talk about that feeling of pressure on their bodies when the swing switches
directions, or when the car makes a sudden stop, which is inertia.
At any rate, the playground
offers a fun and friendly environment for older kids to get their first lessons
in physics. What else can you discover about the science of motion?
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