Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Hate Schedules

Disclaimer: At the end, I get whiny. Sorry.




Physics. Third hour. It's the class that, right now, I live for.

We've been modifying the designs for our full-size trebuchet, and I'd say that we're about ready to go full scale. You can read another post all about it if you want to. (Our small-scale model is currently capable of flinging a ball bearing approximately 25-30 yards, and we're aiming for one that will launch a pumpkin...a long ways. We won't say how far just yet.)

I'm still somewhat amazed at how well the execution of this class went. After the first week, the entire class had divided itself up into several groups, one working on designing a hovercraft, another on the trebuchet, and another is off in the "corner" playing around with video analysis.

Here's the best part, though: We (both my group and the others floating around) are not confined to a specific workspace (or, for that matter, a specific worktime). In fact, the vast majority of the trebuchet's construction has been done in the unofficial office of myself and another team member.

But like I said earlier...it's third hour. Only third hour. 9:41 to 10:34 (9:17 to 9:59 on Wednesdays).

Every day, I have to go through this, and it's annoying. I can't help but envy Shawn Cornally's class for having 80 minutes to work with--on a good day, my team and I might get forty-five minutes to really work with. Every day, just when we get into the swing of making improvements, the time to leave comes.

Of course, it's not quite as bad as I'm making it sound. I'm in the office at lunch, and quite a few team members have been coming in after school. We do get a chance to develop our ideas, and we're even considering scheduling in some Saturday worktime.

So, let's back up and think about what we have. Here is a group of high school students, working on a project for school as often as they can. No one is forcing us to do this. There's not a grade attached to it. There wasn't a worksheet telling us how to do this. We're doing it because we thought it would be fun.

And once it's built and flinging pumpkins into the field behind the gym, we might just sit down and look at why it works. We'll learn some mechanics while we're at it. We've already had a few mishaps which forced us to sit down and figure out what broke and why, and I've learned the hard way that if you get a TV cart packed with equipment rolling, it will keep rolling, even if you're in the way.

However, I'd still like to see a better way of scheduling classes so that I don't have to pack up my trebuchet every day to go sit in a desk for the rest of the day. So then my question becomes: Why not?

Why not give students time--just time, no strings attached, to work with? Trust me. If you give us the chance, we'll eat it up. We're tired of sitting in desks and doing "activities." And we're tired of not knowing what the things we are doing really mean. In third hour physics, we have a chance to change that. And nothing could be better.
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