Neuroscience research suggests that a good chuckle activates long-term memory and stimulates students’ sense of wonder. Physics teacher Auriana Johnson recently tested that theory with her students during an activity designed to assess their understanding of circular motion, net force, acceleration, and speed.
All of that may not sound exciting on its own, but in this particular experiment, the students applied their knowledge of those theories to determine the required minimum leash strength for a flying pig. Yes, you read that right -- flying tea cup pigs.
Fictional company Piggie Co. requested the students’ help in figuring out the logistics of their overpriced designer leashes, which they planned to sell along with their flying pigs.
“Activities like this really allow for students’ individual strengths to shine. I like doing silly but practical applications with them so they can see that physics isn’t just a bunch of text book problems that you have to grind through,” Ms. Johnson said.
“Because it’s silly, because it’s light hearted, they become more comfortable in trying and failing until they finally succeed. From the very beginning, this is what we try to instill in them. Failure is not to be feared, but celebrated.”
The experiment also served as a way for students to practice 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, and creativity. When techniques and theories come alive outside of the classroom, they become a puzzle for students to get excited about solving together, Ms. Johnson said.
Although airplanes or spaceships might have made more sense for an activity like this, she couldn’t pass up adorable flying pigs, she said. But perhaps the best part is that she has noticed her students have been able to better recall information from the beginning of the year much easier than in the past; a testament to allowing more time for play and discovery alongside traditional problem solving.