Second-grade Physics Activity

Cherry Withers writes about using a couple XOs, and some other netbooks with Sugar on a Stick, in a second-grade classroom.

I had 10 minutes of set-up for my small “talk” with a classroom full of 2nd graders and 40mins of instruction/play time. All told, I had 5 net books working with SoaS and 2 XO 1.5s…  The class was tackling Motion, Force and Balance on their Science curriculum and I thought the Physics Activity would fit in perfectly. They haven’t tackled the Law of Inertia (and I guess didn’t have plans to for this year).

I didn’t start with Physics right away. For the first law I opted to have them stare at an unmoving object, a plastic bowling pin. I told them to use their brain power to move it. Needless to say after almost a minute of doing this they were ready to knock the thing down (which they did in so many ways: shaking the desk, blowing on it, and just the good ol’ hand knock-down) They recorded their observations and we were ready to move on to the second law.

I set it up so that they already have Physics opened. I had them draw a ramp but didn’t tell them how to draw it. I told them to use whatever they can find in the program to do so. I got the variation: some groups drew it with the pencil, some with the triangle tool and a few found the polygon. Then I asked them to drop a ball on the top of the ramp and see what happens. They quickly figured out that their ramp would tip if they drew a big ball. Brianna’s group already knew the tricks (this is her favorite activity) and told everyone to “pin” it down. So we talked about what happens to the ball and how it ties to the 2nd law of inertia. One of the kids did ask me a question that stumped me for a second: “How do you know if it in fact goes on forever? You can’t see it go on forever. What if it did slow down and stopped some where else?”…

I told them to try to stop ball from rolling off forever. Some did try the easy way by just drawing an enormous “block” at the end of the ramp, but others found more creative ways: piling up blocks, some drew a bunch of tiny triangles and squares to slow it down, walls that are bolted and pinned. One group surprised me by thinking out of the box: slow down the ball with tiny objects on the floor and then bolt it down with pins. It was late in the exercise when one of the groups discovered the “pause” button.

Overall, it was a fun experience for the kids and they just absolutely loved the Physics activity.

Pennsylvania’s Charter School success

The Chester Community Charter School in Chester, Pennsylvania, with roughly 2500 students, is the largest pilots of XOs in a charter school, and one of the largest single-school pilots in the US. They began in 2008 with 1400 students in 6th through 8th grades, and have since added over 600 more students in 3rd through 5th grades.

They planned their infrastructure and teacher preparation carefully — adding a high-bandwidth network connections within their school to handle the dramatic increase in Internet usage they expected, and running regular workshops with the head teachers from their 3 initial grades to develop new materials to make use of laptops in and out of the class.  And they have engaged city and state policymakers and other potential supporters in their area from the beginning.

I helped them with the initial deployment and a school-wide demonstration we gave to the students — and I still remember the joy with which they glommed onto the new machines; the teachers full of ideas after some brainstorming, and the students pepped by our demonstration of a competitive two-player Maze session.  They recently asked to test out the 1.5 and future tablet models, and seem to be growing their student body steadily at over 10% a year.  I hope to visit with their teachers again soon to see how this has changed their views of teaching.

Mobilizing Haiti: Get Free Ruggedized Laptops

As 10 million post-Earthquake Haitians struggle to survive, then make sense of their flattened communities and missing infrastructure, OLPC’s community-driven Contributors Program is working with the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Hastily Formed Networks Research Group’s Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief project (blog) — and Sahana, an award-winning Free and Open Source Disaster Management System inspired by 2004′s Indian Ocean Tsunami — to support their Haiti response.

2010 Haiti quake intensity map

Shaking intensity from the earthquake

We want free ruggedized XO Laptops running Linux (with Wifi, browser, kids’ learning activities and a whole lot more) to go to aid/reconstruction groups who quickly explain to us their need.  We’re in discussions with 5 so far, but want you to help us find many more aid/reconstruction groups and initiatives that can leverage our work.  Supplies are limited, but we will do our human best to consider all genuinely committed groups — please request/explain your need today at:

Note Full Applications will be processed more quickly.

Free solar-charging backpacks are also currently available independently from: ! (for more intensive uses, please consider other alternative energy approaches)

Thanks for spreading the word — please find your own way to help Haitians into the new decade, building a whole new country.