Mystery and Models

 

1 In my Physics 1 classes, day one is the Mystery Box. Students never get to see inside it, but they make observations and then discuss and write down what they think might be going on inside the box. Then someone asks if I’m going to show them what’s inside the box. “No,” I reply. “How about at the end of the year?” they ask. “No, I’m not going to show you what’s in the box” I reply. Then I explain that the box, IS, SCIENCE!

Nobody’s ever seen inside the nucleus of an atom or inside a black hole, but we have ideas about those places. These ideas are models. The models are useful if they can be used to make accurate predictions. We’ve got a really good model that has protons and neutrons and the strong force in it (among other things) that is pretty darn good at predicting the outcomes of various nucleus-related events (I know the correct word is nuclear, but the kids don’t).

This evening I am reading the observations and speculations of two of my classes (the other class had a meeting so they’ll be doing this tomorrow) and providing feedback, mostly about including details and writing things down even if you don’t know what’s going on. I’ll hand back their papers tomorrow.

If you haven’t seen what happens with my Mystery Box, here’s the video.

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