New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools
Field Notes (Parachute Drop)
The project begins with friction and flow in water, air, and space. Aidan tells the girls to put away their computers and take out paper and pencils; they’re going to draw pictures. He asks, “What hits the ground faster, a bullet fired from a gun, or a bullet dropped from my hand?” Hands shoot up, but one student stands and walks to the whiteboard to sketch her answer. There’s chatter and sass as she does so, and the room fills with drama and loud voices. Aidan grabs a sheet of paper and enthusiastically crushes it into a ball, then raises his arms. In one hand he’s got the crumpled scrunch, in the other a flat sheet. He releases them. “What’s happening?” he asks, uncharacteristically raising his voice. The room replies together, “Friction!” and Aidan says, “Good! Now talk to your partner about friction.”
Later, he spells out the parameters: Design a parachute that’s as light as possible, as stable as possible, and that falls to the floor as slowly as possible. There will be a competition. They’ll work in groups, but everyone will build her own parachute. First they’ll explore coffee filters—how they fall or float—and describe what they find. Aidan holds up handfuls of coffee filters. The girls yell back, “What are our groups?”
After class, Aidan tells me that competition gets the girls to focus, because data collection is a social activity, but devising effective groups is a ← 51 | 52...
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