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Physics teacher - grade 6

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  • Physics teacher - grade 6


    I am a sixth grade public school science teacher doing the Imagine program with the University of Toledo Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio. My goal is to get students excited about Biomechanics. One of my mentors at the school suggested I join this forum.

    I am planning many interesting experiments this school year featuring testing animal tissues (bones, ligaments, tendons, etc.) I could use an old mechanical testing device still in working condition to benefit my students. If anyone has such a device they want to donate (or sell at a reduced price), please let me know.

    Also, any suggestions for simple experiments will be greatly appreciated.


    Ellen Rinehart

  • #2
    Re: Physics teacher - grade 6

    Hello Ellen,

    I’m glad to read that some students are exposed to physics in the 6th grade. This may not address your problem directly, but I can suggest some simple experiments that young students might do on the mechanical aspects of biomechanics.

    Are your students familiar with the lever and the fulcrum? Would they be interested in an exercise where they could understand the action of the bicep muscle on the ulnar and radius when lifting a hand-weight? They could use a small spring scale and a short stick to lift a weight at the end of the stick. From the reading on the spring scale they could see how much greater force the bicep must develop to lift a light weight at the hand-end of the stick.

    Do they understand potential and kinetic energy? Would they understand the RATE at which they expend energy when they run up a flight of stairs (P=mgh/t)? That would introduce them to the concept of power?

    Are they aware of cooling by evaporation and how an athlete uses it to shed body heat? They could hold a wet and dry hand in front of a fan to feel the cooling effect.



    • #3
      Re: Physics teacher - grade 6


      Welcome to Biomech-L! I hope your students appreciate the things you are trying to do to help them.

      I don't have an extra tester. But, there were not always computerized, automated materials testers. Television science shows (eg, Bill Nye, Science Guy) tried to catch the attention of younger scientists and often used more basic setups.

      What I suggest is you build a tester from common items. If you want to compress something, mount a C-clamp on a bench vise and turn the clamp with a torque wrench. It would work like a wine press or a cookie press. Put hooks on the C-clamp and you have a pull tester.

      Another pull tester: clamp samples to two wooden railroad cars and use a pulley and weight system to stretch the tissue (a video camera provides visual strain gauge information).

      After you collect results with your "home grown" systems, field trip samples to a materials lab and compare findings.

      I wish you all the best with this venture!

      Jim Furmato
      Temple University


      • #4
        Re: Physics teacher - grade 6

        Hi Ellen,

        Have you considered doing any comparative biomechanics demos/experiments for them? In my experience, animals are a great way to get kids into science.

        My personal favorite (and the topic of my current doctoral work) is frog jumping. Because it's a simple ballistic movement, you can apply some simplifying assumptions (appropriate for 6th graders) and use jump distance to back-calculate takeoff velocity, takeoff duration, work performed, and power output with a simple excel spreadsheet (or by hand). Then, with literature values for muscle mass and power output, you can directly link animal performance to muscle physiology. Best of all, you just need to get a frog, dip it in water, have it jump along a long sheet of paper, and measure the distance between the wet marks. You can even try it out with other species - even these simple calculations will show that treefrogs like your local spring peepers produce far more power than muscle can produce, evidence of their spring-loaded jumping. For more classroom-stuff, there's some pretty decent transitional fossils of frogs, and the students could have fun coming up with hypothetical experiments (size effects, temperature, different species, etc.)

        Plus, kids love frogs almost as much as they love dinosaurs, and frogs are considerably easier to get ahold of. You'd probably need to wrestle with some regulations for live animals, but the frogs won't need to be killed, and their care is simple enough that they can make great class pets.

        It's not quite as "applied" as human-oriented stuff, but it'll definitely hold their interest and make an impression. Let me know if you're interested and I'll give whatever assistance I can, both on the science and animal care aspects.

        Henry Astley
        Brown University