Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Balls-y Move

Yeah, that's me and my students.
It's tough to get 8th graders interested in chemistry & physics.  Hell, it hard to get me interested in chemistry & physics.  I'm more the life sciences teacher type, but that gets taught to my 7th grade class.    For those of you who do not know, I teach in a "challenging" environment.  My students are more into gangs, drugs, and sex than they are into elements, molecules and Newton's Laws of Motion.  

In my attempts to bring it to the level of my "criminally gifted" audience, I have turned to my love of movies.  (Little snippets to grab their attention, if it doesn't put them to sleep the minute the lights go out.)  For this little lesson I turned to a certain film featuring a young hunky Ben Affleck and my Moonlighting crush Bruce Willis, called Armageddon.

We were studying the difference between weight and mass.  One being the amount of matter an object has and the other having to do with the gravitational pull against that mass.  Now you can imagine what kind of snooze-fest it was in my classroom.  Seriously, the only thing my students want to know about weight and mass is how much does a dime bag really weigh and how many buds would that mass have in it.  Anyway, I decided to use a clip from the movie that shows the oil-drillers training for their walk on the asteroid.  In this clip, Bear (Michael Clark Duncan) is not paying attention to Astronaut Watts instructions.  Being the good instructor that she is, Watts gets Bear's attention and tells him she is trying to teach him how to use his suit, so that if she were to kick him in the balls, he wouldn't go flying off into outer space.

Oh, don't get all uppity on me about the balls comments.  If you worked in my classroom you would understand that saying "balls" is about as benign as saying "hoo-hoo".  My kids can conjugate the F-bomb like nobody's business, so showing a movie clip where they say the word "balls" is nothing.  Get over it.  

Anyway, I used Bear's predicament as our scenario.  First I ask "What would happen to Bear if Watts kicked him in the family jewels while Bear was still on earth?"  After several comments about Bear kicking Watts' behind after he could walk again, and how they would kick someone's @$$ if a chick did that do them - we get to the point.  The point being that the earth has gravity holding Bear to the ground.  It's what makes Bear weigh so much.  I then ask "Why would Bear fly into outer space if Watts kicked him in the family jewels?"  The right answer is because the moon does not have gravity.  It takes a few minutes for them to catch on.

Next we move on to the topic of mass.  "Now did Bear change in size when he went to the moon?" I asked.  No.  He is still the same size.  His mass does not change.  It remains the same on the moon as it is on earth.  This they seemed to grasp fairly quickly, so we return to the weight portion and start to review.

Again, I ask "Where would Bear go if he was kicked in the pants on earth?"  Answers varied from falling on his knees and crying to beating the snot out of Watts.  Eventually we get to the idea that he does not leave the earth's atmosphere because the earth has gravity and Bear has weight.  

Then I make the fatal mistake.  I ask "Where would Bear go if Watts kicked him in the pants while he was on the moon?"  Silence.  Then the lone voice from the back of the room shouts...............................WAIT FOR IT..............  "He'd go to Uranus!"  The class erupts and students (OK, and teachers) spent the next 20 minutes trying to regain some composer.  Yep, another fine teaching moment brought to you by Ms. Tastrophie's Criminally Gifted & Talented 8th Grade Class.


Scope said...

I'm sure you did not teach them that the moon does not have gravity. Because next you'll be explaining tides, and whooops!

The moon just doesn't have as much gravity as the earth, and since gravity is a weak force anyway (compare the amount of earth it takes to keep a paper clip down vs. the amount of magnet it takes to lift it), don't try to explain that it might actually be "leaking" into our universe from another dimension in the membrane multi-verse.

(I watch too much "Science Channel"

Anonymous said...


And yes, Scope, you do watch too much Science Channel. ;p

Chemgeek said...

1) it took that long for the student to think up his line
2) you have a young person with brilliant comic timing.

I'm hoping for #2. It's tough for youngsters to wait for the perfect time to drop the punch line.

Ad Scope is right. The moon is smaller so it has less gravity. But you were correct in the weight/mass discussion.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

@Scope: YES, you watch too much Science Channel. I know about the moon's gravity, but it's not part of the 8th grade TEKS and I really didn't want to confuse the issue. Remember, we are dealing with 8TH GRADERS. More than one concept and POOF, you lost them.

@Chemgeek: I'm hoping for #2 as well, but knowing my students #1 is more likely. I was going to explain the moon gravity issue, but it would have clouded the issue. Some times we have to "ignore" the higher knowledge to get to the basics. :-) Now if I can them to understand Newton's laws....

Your Local Art Whore said...

its fine you didn't get into that
all elementary school we hear of columbus finding america. when in reality he found the bahamas