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Skating around the laws of physics

The latest reports examined by Reva Klein

Get on your rollerblades to help children understand the laws of mechanics. They make lessons fun (especially if you fall down a lot) and will help illustrate concepts that are normally impossible to convey in primary science teaching.

Friction is the stumbling block to teaching basic physics in the classroom. It's an ever-present force, making it impossible to observe other forces acting on their own.

While secondary schools may have sophisticated equipment, such as air tracks, to eliminate friction, primary teachers have to improvise. Thankfully, rollerblades are almost as uiquitous as friction and a brilliant example of low friction.

Lessons in which a teacher used rollerblades to show - either live or on video - the graphing of linear motion, relative motion and Newton's laws, were assessed by pupils to be the most effective science experiments in which they had been involved. Moreover, they said they were able to put physics and everyday life together and start to "see physics everywhere."

Rollerblades: How They Can Help You to See Physics in Everyday Life by Eugenia Etkina, Department of Learning and Teaching, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey

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