Jump in for a physics treat

9th June 2006 at 01:00
Skydiving lessons help pupils' interest in science to take off

Teachers struggling to grab pupils' attention in science lessons should encourage them to feel the laws of physics for themselves by skydiving, according to Anu Ojha, assistant head of the largest specialist science college in England.

And while allowing troublesome teenagers to jump out of a plane may be attractive to some, he suggests a safer way for pupils to feel Newton's laws in action.

Mr Ojha took 23 pupils from Years 8 and 10, at Great Barr school in Birmingham, to experience a wind tunnel in Milton Keynes. After a half-hour physics lesson, each pupil spent two one-and-a-half minute spells "skydiving" in the tunnel.

Year 8 pupil Kerry Whiting said: "When it was my turn, my heart was beating like a drum, but as soon as I had entered I calmed down. It felt as if I was flying, but it was not scary at all."

Mr Ojha, an experienced skydiver who has completed almost 800 jumps, has written an education programme which links pupils' experience in the wind tunnel to specific requirements of the national curriculum for different secondary age groups.

Key stage 3 pupils can learn about balanced forces, weight, gravity and the idea of a terminal velocity of a falling object.

GCSE students can investigate the link between weight and mass and the meaning of velocity and acceleration. Both KS4 pupils and sixth-formers can use the tunnel to deepen their understanding of Newton's laws of motion.

And a group of Great Barr sixth-formers start their summer holiday training with the Royal Artillery parachute team before skydiving for real.

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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