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I want to share a really cool science project with you. First, I have to give credit to the creator, John Pennington, a middle school science teacher at the school where I work. I always joke with my students and tell them that when I grow up to be science teacher, I want to be like Mr. Pennington. Each year, he sets up a sailboat racing competition in the school’s mall area. Using gutters, he creates two, 50-foot racing tracks and fills them with colored water. The gutters are stationed on top of long tables. Then, he places fans every five feet or so to create a constant stream of wind. Students then place their self-designed sailboats on the tracks and time how long it takes for the boats to get down the track. Students observing the race calculate the speed by dividing the distance of the track by the number of seconds it takes for a boat to cross the finish line.
There are so many science concepts, such as drag, buoyancy, etc.—that students learn about while designing their boats out of tin foil, tissue paper, straws and other materials, and they have an absolute blast in the process. What do you think of this idea? Would you ever use it? What other handons science projects are out there that totally excite students about learning?