What do students think of surprising demonstrations?

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Episode 112: No way University of Maryland

Science demonstrations are meant to illustrate important principles. At their best, they are the bedrock of scientific inquiry, providing evidence to support a specific explanation of a phenomenon over competing explanations. However, they can sometimes be tricky or feel contrived, especially when the results are counterintuitive. What do students think of surprising demonstrations?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Coping with frustration
Physics Content
Instructor Interaction
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (3 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(2 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(115 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you noticed.

  2. Curtis says they had thought “the big one would shoot out farther” (line 16). What reasoning might a student have for this common idea?

  3. The students start out with a common problem, which is that they’re not sure whether the two observations were exactly identical. How does Lonna help them past this difficulty (lines 17-27)?

  4. How is Andres’s argument (line 34) similar to Lonna’s? How is it different?

  5. What do you think – would water really shoot out the same from the side of a cup and the side of a pool?

  6. What do you think Bobby is proposing about the hole having to be “proportionate in size to the container” (lines 40-44)? What does Andres’s steel-cutting experience have to do with that (lines 50-52)? Is he right that a finer jet of water makes a more powerful cutting tool?

  7. Based on this episode, how do students respond to surprising demonstrations?

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