Teaching kinematics with traffic court
Here’s a simple idea for an activity we tried today to continue to practice kinematic ideas–acceleration, instantaneous vs average velocity, and graphing. Traffic court. I presented students with three different scenarios, and asked each group to prepare a case on 1 side of a scenario—defending either that the driver should get a ticket or should not. After about 15 minutes of prep work, we come back together and hold court. For each case, groups make cases for/against a ticket, and we then discuss what physical information we are given from the case statement, and what you’d need to make a conclusion about whether or not the ticket is justified. Since the cases are intentionally quite ambiguous, this activity leads to some very interesting discussions, especially as students fill in the details of the cases (such a saying they live on the side of the highway in case 1, and always drive with the cruise control at 60 mi/hr). The true key in helping students to reach the deepest understanding, as in all kinematics stuff, is to push the kids to draw graphs that back up their reasoning.
Overall, the activity was a lot of fun, particularly in my second class, where Frank Noschese was observing virtually via Skype, and my students decided to give him the authority to make the final call on whether a ticket should be issued.