STEM – Conservation Is Not Just About Recycling (Mini-Math Lesson On Energy)(Bouncing Balls, Data & Regression)

Another STEM experiment today that students can easily do with just a few tools/materials:

  • Four different types of balls (so think tennis ball, basketball, ping-pong ball, racket ball, golf ball….)
  • Paper to cover an area of a wall so you can put measures on the wall (or use tape, or tape a measuring tape to a wall vertically).  We are going to be dropping the balls from given heights and record the height of the first bounce, so need to measure vertically.
  • Measuring tape to measure and mark the wall in 1-inch markings up to 6 feet

The idea behind the lesson today is to explore the difference between expected kinetic  energy and observed kinetic energy. Students will record the data of the balls dropped from different heights and their rebound and look at different scatter plots (Drop Height, Rebound) and (Rebound Height, Drop Height), find regression lines and analyze the meaning of the slope in the context of the situation.

There is also an extension activity, where they look at successive rebound heights of a balls bounces when dropped from a given height. This time they will see an exponential relationship (versus linear) and talk about what this means in terms of energy. The whole experiment is exploring the conservation of energy and momentum.

In both parts of the activities, students are encouraged to use their own materials and collect their own data – this obviously makes things a lot more fun and engaging. However, sample data is provided as well if they don’t have the materials. There is even a ball-bounce simulation provided for the second part (successive bounces), using the ability to insert images into ClassPad.net and sliders to control movement.

The activity used is adapted from an exploration in Fostering STEM Education with Casio Technology, Casio 2013. I have made a Classpad.net version here, link provided below, and also provided the PDF of the original activity which goes into more detail and provides some hand-held calculator tips and suggestions. The link to the PDF is also below along with a video overview of the activity in the ClassPad.net version.

  1. STEM-Conservation is NOT Just About Recycling (ClassPad.net Data & Regression)
  2. STEM Conservation Is Not Just About Recycling (PDF)
  3. Video Overview – STEM – Conservation is NOT Just About Recycling (Data Regression Simulation)


The tool being used in these mini-math lessons is the FREE web-based math software, ClassPad.net.

Remember – if you want to save and/or modify any of these activities, create a free account.  Some useful links below:

STEM – Inertia, Force and Velocity – Newton Knew Inertia (Mini-Math Lesson)

I wanted to focus on some STEM lessons this week, using ClassPad.net, since it is so great for collecting data, showing statistical plots, and it’s ability to quickly change things to see the impact and more importantly, to do everything in the one activity (i.e. calculations, data collection, graphs, and explanations). So, I am going to share a different STEM focused lesson each day this week.

STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It’s really about ensuring educational experiences that blend these four areas, so that learning is not in isolation, but rather a connected learning on real-world concepts, that require students to problem-solve, collect data and analyze results, and communicate their findings and use critical thinking. There are many definitions and reasoning behind the push for STEM in education – here is one article that I think gives a good overview if you feel you need more information.

For me, STEM means learning and problems that are real-world, that students can actually do or experiment or relate to, that require them to use science, math, technology and engineering in realistic ways or situations. It’s looking for and collecting evidence, and then modeling this information, and applying understandings of the subjects to make sense or make decisions. The activities I am going to focus on this week come from Fostering STEM Education with Casio Technology, Casio 2013. It is a resource with some really great real-world problems and explorations, and these can be done by students or there is also sample data provided if you don’t have the materials needed to do the experiments yourself. So you can make these activities as hands-on as you want, but if not possible, still have the great discovery and conversations and critical-thinking experiences needed for deep learning and application of STEM concepts.

Today’s activity is one that you could very easily do with students (and it even adheres to social distancing rules!).  In the image above, you will see it involves six students – five to stand at designated and one to push the object in a straight path.  This activity explores how the amount of push impacts inertia and acceleration. There is an object that starts from static position (so a disc (like a frisbee) or ball), and then a student pushes it in a same line with as much consistent push as possible, and as it passes student at the set up positions, they time when the object passes.  The force is changed for three trials and then students compare the data in several ways. So, a fun activity, but, if you are unable to do this with all the materials, or students, then you can use the sample data provided.

Here is the link to the activity, both the ClassPad.net version and the PDF that can be used and a video overview:


The tool being used in these mini-math lessons is the FREE web-based math software, ClassPad.net.

Remember – if you want to save and/or modify any of these activities, create a free account.  Some useful links below:

Summer Vacation – Use Your Experiences to Create Engaging Lesson Ideas

Sea Turtle at the Big Island, HI. How long do they live? How far do they travel??

I know most students and teachers this time of year are very familiar with Alice Cooper’s song “School’s Out for Summer”  (Seniors are probably focused on the line “school’s out forever….”  Maybe even some teachers!)  No doubt, summer is a time of rejuvenation for students and teachers – a much needed break, both mentally and physically. Note: Those of you who do not teach, and see teachers as having it ‘easy’ with the summers off, might try to spend some time in a teachers shoes before making those ridiculous assumptions, or read up a bit on what teachers actually do (they work more than 40 hours per week) and why summer breaks are so important.

Summer break is fast approaching for many, and some may have even started theirs. I remember those first couple of weeks literally not wanting to even look at anything related to school, students, or teaching. But – as most teachers will attest to, there comes a point where summer vacation weaves into professional learning or preparing for the next school year to begin. We never really turn off completely – we take classes to learn something new, or research some new technology or applications we want to try in class next year, or we revamp some lessons from the previous year. Summer vacation always ends up, at some time or other, connected back to teaching and learning – either personally for our own professional growth, or related to how we can be even better the next school year for our new group of students.

For me personally, everything I do always has me thinking of ways to create an interesting lesson for my students. It’s that pervasive idea that whenever possible, connecting the real world back to what students are learning will make the learning engaging and relevant. Just last week, sitting on the beach in Sea Isle City, NJ, watching this big machine out in the water that was dredging sand to replenish Avalon Beach, all I could think about were questions I would want my students to investigate.  Just a few of my questions, as I sat there:

  • How much sand is being pulled up? Is it from the same spot (my observation, since the dredge is in a different location each day, is that no it is not)
  • What happens to the sea animals and plant life that are ‘dredged’ up with the sand? Or, is there a filter that only allows sand in?
  • What are the impacts on the sea life?
  • How many hours a day do the dredges run? (seems like 24 hours to me!)
  • How long does beach replenishment last? (if you don’t have any storms to wash it all back to sea) How long does it take to replenish a beach?
  • How many pounds of sand is needed and where do they place the sand?

Lots of questions just from sitting and watching. What a great #STEM lesson this would be for students – there’s math, there’s science, there’s engineering and there’s definitely technology – it’s quite the endeavor. There is probably a ton of data out there and information about sand restoration projects, so you could have students researching, doing the math, checking out the science, investigating the machines used and the manpower needed. I did an initial search and found a couple articles already where I learned things like the grain size of the sand determines where the dredge pulls sand from (has to match the beach they are replenishing).  Pipelines are created to carry the sand from the dredge to the beach (so, how big are those pipelines? What happens after they ‘finish’ – do the pipes get removed?) Sometimes this is done to protect sea life, often times to protect commercial and residential properties, so this then begs the questions such as what’s the cost (money wise and to the environment), who benefits, what are the potential dangers and damage (to environment/sea life, etc). Here’s just a few articles I found.

My point here is not to give you a lesson on beach restoration. Instead, my point is that I was just sitting on the beach, enjoying my vacation, and saw the

Two clear streams in Costa Rica that when they meet, the chemicals in them react and turn the water blue. Why

machinery and started thinking. Posing questions. Realizing that there could be an amazing #STEM lesson here, which got me excited and doing research and yes – vacation or not – planning for teaching.  I think it is a natural tendency as a teacher to see a ‘lesson’ pretty much anywhere we go, which is what I want to emphasize here. Even on vacation, if you have a great idea based on something you are doing or seeing, some idea you think would be an engaging lesson, go with it. Take some pictures. Write down some ideas. Do some research. Use your own experiences and ‘time off’ to discover teaching ideas and spark your own enthusiasm for the next school year. Bring your vacation into your classroom and build relevant, real-world, multi-content lesson ideas that will spark student engagement, questioning, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Enjoy yourself and your summer, but never stop learning and looking for great ideas to bring back to your classroom.