There were Velcro walls and giant soccer balls in Baldi Middle School last week. There also was some extreme wrestling that was part of a lively and entertaining multimedia musical show designed to kick up understanding of, and, perhaps, a keener interest in, science.
Baldi Middle School pupils sat in their darkened gym on Sept. 25 watching three performers demonstrate Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion using some hip-hop and dance to complement video of the 17th century scientist and mathematician explaining his ideas.
Newton’s laws of motion, which were spelled out in his 1687 book, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, or Principia, furthered mankind’s understanding of how the universe works. The book is a milestone in the history of science, and knowledge of Newton’s three laws is a fundamental part of science education.
Profound ideas. So where do Velcro, giant soccer balls and extreme wrestling come in?
A wall made of Velcro, along with assistance from a couple of pupils, helped demonstrate part of Newton’s first law, which can be boiled down to: Something that is moving will keep moving unless something else stops it. Wrap a kid in Velcro and have him throw himself at a Velcro wall, and he’ll just hang around for a while.
Ever-increasing sizes of soccer balls helped kids visualize the relationship between force and mass that’s laid out in Newton’s second law. A regular-sized soccer ball is pretty easy to boot into a net a foot or so away. Multiply the ball’s mass, and the amount of force needed to move the ball changes, too.
Extreme, well, very extreme, wrestling helped the performers show Baldi’s pupils Newton’s third law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You’d probably have to appreciate slapstick to enjoy watching a couple of teachers clothed in giant padded suits bouncing off each other in the third law demonstration, but what seventh-grader wouldn’t?
“‘The Baldi students ate it up!” said Ambrose Liu, ArtsRising coordinator for the Philadelphia Education Fund. “The actors/dancers and the music with the multimedia video and interactive and laugh-inducing science demonstrations made the subject matter very palpable to the audience.”
The Ed Fund brought the program to Baldi, Liu said.
The Honeywell Hometown Solution’s FMA Live! show was created by Honeywell and NASA in 2004 to get middle-school pupils interested in science by making science entertaining to them. There’s a need to fire up that interest, according to a Honeywell press release, because too few students have the math and science skills to compete for jobs in the 21st century.
“We at the Ed Fund were just thrilled to be able to invite FMA Live to Philadelphia and help coordinate logistics on behalf of the schools,” Liu said. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t have happened given the staffing challenges that the schools are facing.”
The performance at Baldi was the only one in the Northeast.
And, “FMA” is drawn from Newton’s second law: Force = Mass x Acceleration. But all the good science students probably guessed that. ••