Energy: Stop Faking It!

The NSTA Symposium: Energy: Stop Faking It! took place at the Clarion Hotel Anaheim Resort in Anaheim, CA, on Saturday, April 8, 2006. Sixty-nine educators were in attendance, including over twenty-five NASA Explorer School teachers. The presenter was Dr. Bill Robertson, author of the popular series of books Stop Faking It! This symposium was designed around the Energy: Stop Faking It! book for teachers grades 4-8. In this symposium Dr. Robertson focused on the concepts of potential and kinetic energy, transformation of energy, work, and conservation of energy. NSTA would like to thank all the participants and Dr. Robertson for a job well done.

After an introductory administrative session during which Flavio Mendez, Symposia and Web Seminars Program Manager at NSTA, familiarized participants with the contents of their folders (including the agenda, college credit forms, talent release form, and pre-assessment), Bill Robertson started by introducing the audience to the term of constructivism. He explained that throughout the symposium he would use this concept and the learning cycle to teach the concepts of energy listed in the agenda.

Throughout the morning Bill engaged the audience in using different materials that were placed at the participants' tables. Things like rulers, toy-car ramps, marbles, paper cups, batteries, paper clips, scissors, etc. He began by giving teachers experiences in the concepts of potential and kinetic energy. Teachers used a marble, a ruler, and a paper cup for this experiment. They rolled the marble down the ruler (used as a ramp) and measured the distance the paper cup moved as the marble collided with it. Several measurements were taking as the marble was released from different heights off the ramp. Some teachers also explored using different slopes too observing their results.

Guided discussions followed each one of the experiences. Teachers were able to ask their questions as they "constructed" their new understanding about the concepts of energy. Other experiences included assembling a pendulum, dropping objects, like batteries, and using toy-car ramps to learn about conservation of energy. How high do you have to drop a marble for it to go around one entire loop on the toy-ramp? This important concept, Robertson explained, is taken into consideration by those people who design roller coasters and other amusement park rides.

All the concepts and exercises covered at the symposium are described in detail in Dr. Robertson's Energy: Stop Faking It! book. All participants received a copy of the book for attending the symposium and were invited to participate in the two web seminars scheduled after this face-to-face experience. The first web seminar will focus on the topic of simple machines.

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    Underwritten in part by NSTA Press