Raising Mini Physicists

July 30, 2018

When most of you think about learning physics, where does your memory take you? Do you automatically think of physics class in high school or maybe an experiment in middle school? Whether or not we realize it, we all grew up experimenting with physics in and out of the classroom. For instance, did you have a Slinky® when you were a child? This is a toy that helps you intuitively learn physics. My brother and I each had a Slinky® and would race them down the stairs in our house. We were experimenting with how fast or slowly we pushed the Slinky® off the steps, in actuality an inclined plane. A physicist would have told us we were experimenting with force versus distance.

You don’t have to be a physicist to explore the concepts of physics; you just need the right materials for exploration and discovery. Some concepts of basic physics involve exploring motion, gravity, friction, and speed while using simple machines such as wheels, gears, pulleys, inclined planes, wedges, screws, and levers. The exhibits in Make it Move (MIM) were developed so that children could explore some concepts of basic physics while playing with simple machines. As children play with the exhibits in MIM, they can begin to intuitively understand some of these concepts and, with the support of their grown-up play partners, learn the vocabulary to describe them. Look at how many words we can use to describe simple machines and some of the basic concepts in physics.

Children explore at our Gear Table. Here they discover that a is a with teeth, which allow it to interlock and turn another gear. They may also notice the between a bigger and smaller gear.

Ramps! There are lots of opportunities to discover that ramps are inclined planes that help the speed of a ball move more easily, slower, or faster. A simple machine that does then for us! After all, isn’t that what working with simple machines is all about, that is, using a to move an object a distance?

The momentum of the object in Ramps and Rollers or Maxi Rollways may vary depending upon what object is chosen. Even our youngest visitors can be observed experimenting with balls and spools down one ramp.

Does this spark any childhood memories? Or maybe a memory of something that your child did that you just now realize was a physics experiment? I would LOVE to hear from you! Post your stories and questions on our social media platforms and be sure to use the hashtag #PlayIQwithDCM so I can respond!