My classes just finished doing a conservation of momentum lab. In many ways it was a big disappointment. We ended up spending 2-1/2 classes on the lab, with little to show for it. The general idea was to record position and time data from 6 videos (6 different types of collisions), calculate velocities and momentum, and compare total momentum before and after. There were lots of problems with this: Students would make mistakes in recording data or making a calculation, and every mistake helps to obscure the goal of seeing that total momentum doesn’t change.
This year in physics 11 I wanted to really instill the idea of inquiry, and the asking of questions. Coupled with this I hoped to re-emphasize labs during the course and try to do as many as possible. As with most things I seem to do, I had some success and some not-so-much success. I’m going to break this topic down into three different posts, beginning with how I tried to set things up, how we ended, and what I look forward to do next year.