Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.



You know, there’s really only one bird that matters. The Gannet is a majestic creature, often found bringing the wreck on fleeing bait fish in the Northern Atlantic. I came across the Gannet while researching my constant obsession with Scottish castles and English feudal relationships. (I’m never not reading The Once and Future King)

I ran across this video and realized that it has about as much #anyqs gusto as anything I’ve ever tried to produce myself.

Here’s what the kiddos came up with:

  • What’s their acceleration down to the water?
  • Is their impact speed really 60 mph?
  • What’s the minimum safe angle to make with the water?
  • At what depth in the water would impact with a dolphin be fatal, to the dolphin?
  • Verify the narrator’s claim that a 30m drop will get the Gannet 10 of depth.
  • At what height would even a perfect dive be fatal?
  • What’s the acceleration in the water?

I had them all draw the free-body diagrams for the birds in dive and under the water. This was awesome, because the underwater part is an inverted projectile motion problem.

The object has positive acceleration but negative initial velocity. This was surprisingly (frighteningly) difficult for my students, and I’m glad we had a chit chat about it.

Each student took on the question they found the most interesting. A lot of time was spent discussing reasonable assumptions about how much force it would take to damage vertebrae. This may seem like a student deflection of concentration, but I disagree completely. So much of the cognitive load is on the teacher to come up with these kinds of numbers for trite little “problems.”

I think that the students are exercising a much atrophied part of their brain when someone says “800N to kill a chicken? No way.”

Another responds, “800N is like the weight of person, do you think you could stand on a chicken and have it survive?”

Macabre? Perhaps.

I love teaching.

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Shawn Cornally • November 14, 2011

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