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Within the science curriculum, the science understanding sub-strand, physical sciences, involves students learning that “forces affect the behaviour of objects” (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2020). An open-ended investigation which is linked to physical sciences, involves students examining “what happens to the fall time of a paper helicopter when I change the wing span?” This investigation is suitable for year 3 as during this level, students learn “forces can be exerted by one object on another through direct contact or from a distance (VCSSU064)” (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2020). Additionally, during year 3, students take part in planning and conducting investigations to find answers to a particular question. By using the paper helicopter investigation, this is a great way to teach students these processes, as well as introducing students to forces in a fun and interactive way.
The planning stage consisted of developing a question for investigation and determining how this will be carried out. To develop a question, I filled out a variables grid, with my dependent variable being “the time taken for a paper helicopter to fall”. In the boxes surrounding this variable, I listed possible situations which could affect the fall time, such as the material used to create the helicopter or the wingspan. Using these variables, I determined what variable I’d change and what would be kept the same. After completing this process, my question for investigation was formed, being “what happens to the fall time of a paper helicopter when I change the wingspan?” By completing the variables gird, I was able to ensure my investigation would be a fair test. A fair test involves making sure only one variable is changed, thus, being able to determine what is causing the helicopter fall time to vary. Moreover, I predicted which helicopter would have a longer fall time, deciding the helicopter with the larger wing span will take longer to fall, in comparison to the helicopter with shorter wingspan. Lastly, I made a list of all the materials I’d need, along with forming a procedure on how the investigation will take place.
During the conducting stage, I physically created the paper helicopter, as well as tested the fall time of the helicopter. To begin, I cut two strips of A4 paper and measured the length and width of both strips, with 20cm being the length and 4cm being the width. To make the wings for helicopter 1, I cut a 6cm line down the middle of my paper. Likewise for helicopter 2, I repeated this process, however I cut a 9cm line instead. I then proceeded to create my final helicopter by folding the tail and the wings. Once the helicopters were created, I used my tape measure to measure 1.37 meters, the desired height which I dropped my helicopters from. I decided to test helicopter 1 first, which had a total wingspan of 12cm. I dropped the helicopter three times from the desired height, each time timing how long it took to fall. I then repeated this exact process with helicopter 2, which had a total wingspan of 18cm. For each of the trails, I recorded my observations and the fall time into a table, which I later analysed and used to interpret the results.
Within the processing stage, I analysed my results and determined an appropriate way to display the data. After I dropped helicopter 1 (shorter wingspan) three times, the results indicated the helicopter touched the ground at 1.47 seconds, 1.27 seconds and 1.38 seconds. The average fall time of this helicopter was 1.37 seconds. The results from helicopter 2 (longer wingspan) demonstrated it touched the ground at 1.71 seconds, 1.61 seconds and 1.65 seconds. The average time it took the helicopter to fall was 1.65 seconds. After recording my results into a basic table, I decided to transfer this into a bar graph, which allowed the data to be represented more clearly, as well as physically being able to see which helicopter had a longer fall time. The x-axis represented the names and wingspans of both helicopters and the y-axis represented the varying times each helicopter fell. In regards to the quickest fall time for both helicopters, it was found that helicopter 2 took 0.34 seconds longer to fall than helicopter 1.
Based on all the data I collected within my investigation, I can conclude that the fall time of a paper helicopter is increased when the wingspan is larger. By analysing the test results, it is evident that helicopter 2 took 0.34 seconds longer to fall compared to helicopter 1, therefore changing the wingspan does have an effect on fall time. The reason behind these findings can be due to the larger the wingspan, the more resistance and the more force is needed to push the helicopter to the ground. Furthermore, after spending time analysing my results, I have found a pattern amongst the data. After dropping both helicopters three times, the second test for both helicopters produced the fastest fall time. This may be due to learning how to correctly press start on the timer as soon as the helicopter left my hand, as well as pressing stop exactly once the helicopter touched the ground.
I found this investigation process to be both engaging and informative and to produce accurate results. However, one of the ways to improve this experiment is by using a device to video the fall time of the helicopter, rather than using a timer. By doing so, I can rewind the video and pause it at the time which the helicopter touched the ground. This will produce more accurate results, instead of relying on myself to correctly start and stop the timer.
When conducting an investigation, student’s safety is the number one priority. When creating the paper helicopters, students are required to use scissors, therefore it is essential students are aware on how to correctly use and handle scissors. Some of the safety measures put in place include making sure all students are sitting at their table whilst handling scissors. Furthermore, there will be an adequate amount of scissors available at all tables, therefore reducing the number of students moving between tables whilst holding scissors. Moreover, sustainability is another aspect to be considered throughout this investigation. To ensure no paper is wasted, the teacher will provide each student with two strips of paper to make their paper helicopters. This way, students aren’t wasting resources by cutting up unnecessary amounts of paper. Additionally, any scrap pieces of paper will be thrown in the recycle bin, allowing this wastage to be converted into new materials, rather than being thrown into the rubbish bin and ending up in landfill.
The inquiry-based process can be implemented into the classroom via the 5E Teaching and Learning Model. To begin, the engage phase will be used to assess what students’ currently know about forces and encourage their interest in regards to the topic and carrying out investigations. Next, the explore phase involves students physically conducting the investigation and being hands-on with their learning. During the explain stage, students think scientifically about the investigation and how forces allowed the paper helicopter to fall to the ground. Here, students refer back to their observations and results they collected to help support their understanding. The elaborate phase involves students sharing their thoughts and knowledge with their peers, thus gaining a deeper understanding on the purpose of the investigation and their knowledge on forces. Finally, the evaluate phase consists of students reflecting on the new skills they have gained and what they have taken away from participating in the investigation (Primary Connections, 2020). At the completion of the 5E model, students should have formed a thorough understanding of forces, such as how forces alter the behaviour of an object when displaying actions, such as dropping or throwing, for example ((VCSSU064) (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2020
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