KENMORE — Last month, summer campers investigated Sir Isaac Newton's physics principles at St. John the Baptist School by participating in the school's weeklong STEM/STREAM camp, which incorporates key concepts of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as expanding the focus to include studies in religion and art.
On Aug. 7, the youngsters experimented with the 17th-century scientist's laws of conservation, momentum, and motion by constructing Newton's cradles out of popsicle sticks and marbles. The position of the frame, angles of the strung marbles and distance between the colliding balls were all factors that needed to be pondered in constructing cradles that would actually work. Campers relied on trial and error, collaboration, observation and critical thinking to strategize the perfect plan.
Newton's cradles typically consist of five identically sized metal balls that are suspended at the same length from a metal or wooden frame. One ball is swung in a pendulum fashion that transfers energy through the balls with the force and friction causing the opposing ball to arc. In turn, the impact transfers the potential energy into kinetic energy causing the ball to collide and continue the process. They gained popularity in 1967, when British actor Simon Prebble first made the toy sold in the swanky Harrod's of London.
Sharon Domin and Gina Szczodrowski, two fourth-grade teachers, indicated this was just one of many principles presented this week at St. John's.
"Telling a kid that they're going to learn about Newton's Laws is not necessarily appealing," Domin said. "However, having them immersed in the science by challenging them to construct something, put it to the test, and discover the science in the process, makes it entertaining and engaging. That's where the learning begins. This is our approach during the school year with our St. John's students, and what better way to continue the learning and enthusiasm over the summer?"