The Secret of Trapezes (1995)
Running time: Approx. 16 minutes (15:55)
Background on the video: This video shows the 7th
and 8th of 10 lessons on pendulums, taught to fifth graders in a national
public elementary school in Shizuoka, Japan. In prior lessons, students
have created desktop "trapezes" and tried to make them swing at different
speeds in order to transfer a paper-clip "acrobat" from one trapeze
to the other (see illustration on reverse). Students chose to investigate
three factors they thought influenced the speed of the trapeze cycle:
The weight of clay on the trapeze
The angle of release of the trapeze
The length of the trapeze wire
In the "research lessons," students investigate these three factors.
Of the three, only the length of the wire actually affects the cycle
time of the trapeze. This research lesson is "practice" for a large
public research lesson to be held four months later, which will concern
different science content, but the same school research theme, "By conversing
with nature, build scientific perspectives and ways of thinking." All
the school's teachers and several outside educators (both elementary
and collegiate) attend.
Teachers who observe the lesson receive 42 pages of material including
the lesson plans, unit plan, teachers' thinking about the approaches
that build "scientific perspectives and ways of thinking," analyses
and excerpts of student work, and the dialogue of three students selected
for study by the teachers. Short biographies of these three students
suggest the reason for their selection. Excerpts follow:
"Takumi" was a child who rarely spoke up in class but had shown
the most interest and ability in science, and it was hoped that science
might be the vehicle for him to "gain recognition from his friends
and learn the importance and satisfaction of participation in discussions."
"Sadako" was a child who was frequently at the center of class discussions
and expressed her preferences and opinions very strongly. It was hoped
that she would "control conditions as precisely as possible, become
aware of measurement error, and develop a scientific way of thinking
. . . we want to closely observe how carefully she considers others'
opinions and reconstructs her ideas."
"Kouji" was a child who liked science and, using
commercially available science comics, had already covered the science
curriculum the class would be studying, but "his knowledge alone
will not convince his friends. He will struggle to learn how experiments
should be designed and interpreted . . . Through such activities,
I hope that he will learn to analyze findings carefully, and develop
scientific ways of thinking."
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