Conquering Mt. Gravitation

It had been over a month since I created a Prezi so off I went…

Physics teachers are invited to “Make a Copy” of my Google Doc for this endeavor. I have been doing this activity for many years, however, it was not exactly following the GEM format.  Consequently, I added a level of complexity that involved “discrepant information” which created an opportunity for students to test a new hypothesis relating Force to Separation Distance.  I also added a question at the end of this activity that provided a “new case” for students to contemplate.

Overall, I think the new version of my project is significantly more complex.  My concern is that Grade 11 students will fold like cheap tents, as the original version already caused many a headache for many a student. However, this new GEM-ized version, allows students to be uncomfortable and creative.  Finishing this activity will undoubtedly make them feel like they have conquered a mountain!

Should anyone have any additional scaffolding ideas, please shoot them my way. (I appreciate that you may need a physics background in order to do this, however.)


  1. Great sequencing. I can certainly see this being challenging for grade 11 students. The major need for scaffolding would seem to be in the mathematical relations department and connecting graphs with functions. In Alberta, these were both grade 11 topics when I went through but it might be useful to review/prime these concepts by providing examples of various relationships (with accomanying graphs).

    1. Hi Daniel, Thanks! I do spend a significant of time with the graphical relations and graph straightening, before heading to this unit. I usually do a Mathematical Physics Unit, the Kinematics, then Gravitation. There is a heap of graphing in Kinematics so to continue into the Gravitation Unit, is a “graphing-dove-tail”. It blends quite nicely, actually. (I think Gravitation is falling off the face of Physics 11, sadly, in BC. The final curriculum has not been set in stone, but I think it is going do-do, in exchange for Circuitry. Sigh. I really like this unit!) Anyhoo, thanks again!!! Dana

  2. Hi Dana,
    What I love about your post is the following:
    “My concern is that Grade 11 students will fold like cheap tents, as the original version already caused many a headache for many a student. However, this new GEM-ized version, allows students to be uncomfortable and creative. Finishing this activity will undoubtedly make them feel like they have conquered a mountain!”

    First of all, because it made me laugh and secondly because you hit on such an important point, that being we need to not only allow students to be uncomfortable and creative, we should expect it and so should they. We have spent so long teaching children there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and they have been conditioned to only want to know how to do it right. Do it right the first time often means they follow outlined steps plug in numbers and get an answer. There is no connection to learning and therefore they do not really grow or progress as learners. They have come to believe that being uncomfortable is bad and they need to find out right away how to do it with no errors or god forbid they need to try again.

    I have to say this drives me crazy. I actually started out this year with a saying on my classroom door “Failure is welcome here”. It got a lot of smirks and confused looks from staff and students alike, but it only took my class a few weeks to see I meant it and what it actually means.
    I spent a lot of time telling them how much we learn from our failures and that being uncomfortable meant we were learning and growing.

    The best example I can give is in a science unit- I had set up what I thought was a challenge. One student (who loved the topic and had a lot of knowledge about it) finished it really quickly. While I congratulated him, I said that he now had a choice, he could either try to find a different way to solve the problem or we could expand the parameters of the problem to make it more challenging. He was very confused and said, “but I completed the assignment right, why am I not done?” I replied that my role was to help him learn and think and solve problems and I hadn’t really taught him anything in this lesson because he knew it, I would not be doing my job and he would not learn anything if I just said good job. While he balked at first he later admitted he felt better when he tackled my challenge and found a solution.


    1. Hi Catherine, Sorry about the wait-time on the reply— I was chaperoning our Grade 12 Ski/Snowboard trip this week. (#perk) Yes— we all know what it feels like to be the folded, cheap tent. It doesn’t typically feel good, so it is understandable that we typically respond by protecting our students from being a piled heap of fabric and poles. I think about Vygotsky’s ZPD theory, though… It is the role of the MKO to assist learners through their moments of frustration so that the don’t actually get to the point of folded tent. “Wobbly tent”-status, however, is probably a better place to aim for! ~~~ Your story of the student who finished his work quickly resonated with me on a personal level. My 10 year old son is particularly speedy with his school work, opting for minimal requirements over really digging into tasks. Recently, when his teacher had him complete a project digitally, however, he was the last one to finish. Capturing students’ attention and having them “buy-in” to the task is incredibly important, as they may not make the best choices for their learning, when flying solo. Cheers, Dana

  3. Hi Dana,

    I like your goals when students reach the top of this conceptual mountain! The pedagogical course that the students traverse as they journey up this mountain is well staged with base camps and pedagogical support throughout.

    There are a number of scaffolds suggested in the research, several of which are reflected in the Google documents. If I may offer some suggestions on scaffolds, some teachers who have used T-GEM will identify the phases of instruction for the students as well with the use of subheaders such as “Generate a Rule or Develop a Rule” for the parts. In Step 4 on the Google form, there might be an opportunity here before question 5 to ask the students to choose among a rule based on the information they have gathered and interpreted in the previous questions. There might also be an opportunity to integrate digital technology within the sequence in interesting ways. For example, students can construct their own what if scenarios using gravity simulations. In what ways do you think students might complete the modification phase (eg. Part 4)?
    This lesson is rich with examples of how math and science work together. Here, students have to understand the math and what it means in order to make sense of the data.

    And a note on student failure, for those interested, there is research that suggests historically lower achieving students might not respond as well to dissonance; however, Manu Kapur’ offers his concept and research on when failure can be quite productive among students.

    Thank you for sharing how you teach this topic with a Prezi; it would be interesting to hear how your revised GEM-ized lesson goes!


    1. Hi Samia, Apologies for the late reply to your reply– I have been conquering an actual mountain on our Grade 12 Ski Trip this week! Next week, I am rolling this T-GEMized lesson out, so perhaps what I will do is make a post on my blog about how it went. Ideally, I will find the time to incorporate your suggestions for my Step 4, too! I have also written down your suggestion to read up on Kapur’s ideas. I have a feeling that this will need to take place in April, however. Cheers, Dana 🙂

    2. Hi Samia, As next week is fast approaching, I thought I had best absorb your suggestions sooner rather than later. I have added “Generate a Rule ” questions to the Google Form and I altered the last question, that provides students with “discrepant data”. My original question was a bit “off”—it needed some reworking. Anyway, if all goes well, I can have students start GIP on Friday, the day before Spring Break. Most will only get the Google Form complete, as it is a short day, but we will have to continue the process after Break. I may not be able to fully report on the results prior to ETEC 533 ending, but I should at the very least be able to comment on the qualitative section. Here is a link to my revised product: ~Dana 🙂

  4. Hi Dana,

    Thanks for providing the link. I was able to take a quick look. If you are planning to take another look at it, I might affirm the use of subheaders where applicable: Evaluation, Modify, etc if it fits. Cheers, Samia

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