To Run or Walk in the Rain

So it’s time to start taking this blogging thing seriously because it’s time I become intentional about reflecting. Conrad Wolfram’s 2010 TEDTALK asked What is Math? and at the top of his list was “Posing the right question.” And that’s where I’ll begin….

We’ve had a ton of rain where I live and the students asked a colleague of mine if you get more wet by running or walking in the rain. I’m sure it’s something we have all thought of and personally I just assumed walking but we wanted to be sure. Each Wednesday I teach a group of students (3rd-5th) during a STEM connection class and it was during this time that we decided to tackle the question.

sprinkler

I posed the question to the students and they developed a plan as to how they would determine if walking or running in the rain makes you more wet. The students decided that they would need an oscillating sprinkler, six T-shirts of same size, and a balance scale. Students devised a plan to set the oscillating sprinkler up so that the water would shoot straight into the air and fall to reenact the motions of rain. Each group of six students selected two members to act as their “test subjects.” Of the two students selected, one student would run while the other walked underneath the falling “rain” from sprinkler. Students controlled the spray of the sprinkler so that it covered 50 ft in length. Both students wore a plain white T-shirt over top of their clothes and walked 200 feet in total (there and back twice). As soon as they were done walking, they remove their white T-shirt and one group member put the shirt in a small container trying to make sure that minimum water was released from the shirt. After each group had completed the steps of walking through the rain we returned back to the classroom and weighed the shirts. After weighing the shirts using the balance scale, the students found that the shirts worn by the runners weighed more and absorbed more water the walking students.

The closing discussions we shared were extremely powerful and students were able to make connections to the real world that I had never anticipated. I asked the students how it could be “that we get more wet by running in the rain as opposed to walking in the rain?” Here’s 2 conclusions that students made:
The first student made the connection of driving in the car. They related it to when it’s raining and you’re stopped at a traffic light. The rain can seem as if it’s just drizzling however once the car sets off in motion the rain appears to be falling at a more rapid rate. When you stop at a light again the rain appears to slow down. (Awesome!)

The second students’ conclusion stemmed from the first students’ shared idea. The student suggested that when walking, the rain only hits the head and the shoulders of the student. However when running through the rain, the water hits the head, shoulders, chest, legs, and most of the body’s front. What the student was describing was that the rain is hitting more surface area therefore the shirt absorbed more water. (Brilliant!)

It’s these connections between math, science, and the real world that I’m continually trying to engage students in. What’s even more, is that students began to identify the different variables that could be controlled that could change the outcome of our experiments such as the rate of rain falling, wind speed, and pace of running or walking. It was great to see the way that students fully engage themselves in this process because it was something meaningful to them.

Then it made me ask the next question… “Shouldn’t all learning have meaning and purpose?” (maybe that’s the tough part)

About gfletchy

K-8 math consumer trying to listen and learn each day. Stay thirsty my friends!
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