Physics: The Dramatic Conclusion, Egg Drop! No Yolk!

So how did it go?

My three sections of physics completed their drops with results ranging from absolute egg decimation with yolk flying everywhere to perfectly pristine shells.  As the official egg-dropper, I stand two stories up, looking down at anxious faces as they watch their precious creations accelerate dramatically toward the cold tile floor.  I know I've said this before, but I love how invested they become, and it really isn't about the grade at this moment.  Even better, the students really support each other when things don't go their way.  Here's a peek at some of the final products!

Images of student egg drop devices in physics class

On the first drop day, one class dropped and only one student was successful.  I couldn't believe it.  Typically, the success rate is around 30% to 40%.  But this was 10%!  The students handled it quite well with only a few comments about my high egg-spectations.  Note: puns have been flying for the last week and a half.  I laugh really hard every time.  But, by the next day, the whole senior class was swirling with the news of DiSanto's "impossible" drop.  My second class was positively quaking with fear, expecting their drop outcome to be much the same.  To their immense relief, four students successfully protected their precious eggs from any damage at all.  They left beaming with pride over their 40% success rate.  Finally, my last section dropped and saved six eggs (55% success rate)!  Overall, the 2019 success rate fell into the expected range with 34%.

The entire drop period the kids were buzzing with energy and enthusiasm.  After the drop, we walked back to the classroom to assess the damage.  Students helped each other carefully extract their eggs in the hopes of confirming success.  We added the results of the drop, the masses of the devices, and the drop times to the front of the room to check whether mass requirements were met and that air resistance was not a factor.  Below is an example of some results.  I realize some of this detail is unnecessary, but I love to see evidence of what actually happened in the classroom.  It gives you as much of the feeling of having been there as possible.  Yes, one student took it upon himself to add a little flair to my bubble letters of the students' names.  I think it was a nice touch.

If you want to know more about these details (how the project was performed and what steps the students followed), check out my first egg drop post.  If you look at the image above, Egg.3 was assigned a value based on egg survival.  The 3, 4, 5, 6 scale is consistent with my standards-based grading scale.  If you are interested in that, check out my first SBG post!

During the class following drop day, we reflected and then began to refresh our free fall and second law skills with some drop problem-solving practice in preparation for the end-of-project assessment.  For my regular physics courses, I don't do lab reports as I usually end up reading much the same thing about forty times, despite endless conversations about working alone and drawing individual conclusions.  Instead, I give post-lab (or post-project) assessments in which I ask students to apply our course skills to scenarios that mimic our lab as well as those that go beyond it (what if this had changed?  how would your results differ? explain/calculate...that kind of thing).

Will I do the egg drop again?

I always ask myself if this project is worth it.  (I have done some variation of this project for the last 5 years)  I could be squeezing another unit into the curriculum instead.  While I'm doing my best to keep the physics fresh with small homework assignments along the way, shouldn't I just be having them solve more physics problems?  Here are some of my answers.

The kids I teach are really good at school.  They are good at listening and regurgitating.  I personally feel that being exposed to more risk in learning is so important.  While this project might not seem like much of a risk to you, it really is to them.  The kids have such a hard time with the whole "there is no RIGHT answer" thing.  They are so used to the "one solution model" in an academic course.  Further, the students (not me) decide how to build, whether to test, how many times to test, how to budget their time, when to measure the mass, what requirements to follow, and what requirements to let go of in the name of egg safety.  Over the course of the three build classes, the kids gradually (some more quickly than others) stop asking me what to do and just do it.  I love seeing their growing confidence, their resilience when things don't go well, and their awareness of each other.  These kids are not taking this course to become physicists.  If they do pursue physics, amazing!  But if they don't, I want them to take away more from this class than a vague recollection of free body diagrams.  I want them to remember the feeling of taking a risk, investing in an outcome, supporting another person, recovering in the face of failure, and, in some cases, having a risk pay off.

This is why I do the drop and keep doing the drop.  For now, the two-week sacrifice is worth it!


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