One of the highlights for elementary school students during classroom time at Lausanne Collegiate school is class experiments in John Frassinelli's classroom.
Unfortunately, online distance learning presents a particular challenge for elementary science.
"The goal is to teach science and tell its story, whenever possible, using the tools we most of our children have at home," Frassinelli said. "The lessons have to be valid, motivational, truthful, and brief enough to engender full participation. "
With all this in mind, he has used his library of books at his home as well as internet resources, knowledge of the children we teach and some imagination to keep science learning active and exciting.
Most recently, he presented a lab entitled "Gravity Always Wins" to Lausanne fourth graders.
"I put together a video explaining some of the big ideas of the phenomenon we know as "black holes," Frassinelli said.
A black hole is nature's most extreme case of gravity; it is gravity turned in upon itself. While black holes are not fully understood, astrophysicists do know that every black hole began as a supermassive star. That is, the mass of the supermassive star, from its inception, must have been 7 or more times the mass of our sun. That's the lower limit, and we believe that some black holes are millions of times more massive than our sun.
The star, after fusing its hydrogen fuel, smashed other progressively heavier elements together until it could no longer do so. Without the expansive force of the fusion that caused the star to shine in the first place, the remnants of the huge star collapsed under its own mass. Tighter, heavier, ever smaller, in ways we almost cannot imagine, the leftover set of star-matter became infinitely dense and infinitely small. With its tremendous gravity now in place, anything within a certain radius -- including light -- becomes part of the black hole, never to escape. Everything within a certain distance, including light itself, falls into the black hole, also known as a "singularity."
For students, the problem became, "how can we do a black hole lab and how can we do it at home?"
According to Frassinelli, the short answer is "we can't."
"However, we certainly could try an experiment with gravity," Frassinelli said.
The experiment (click to watch) steps include:
Materials: 1 aluminum (or Styrofoam or plastic) can (or cup), 1 sharp nail (or something sharp enough to poke a hole), a pitcher of water, & a place outside where you can climb up high, such as a ladder or a slide
"In the experiment, water began streaming out of a container when the thumb is removed," Frassinelli said. "When the container is dropped (including the water within) from a high place, the streaming water stops flowing. The water stops flowing during the moments of the fall because the water was weightless during that time. That is, since gravity was acting equally both on the container and on the water, the net force acting on the falling thing was zero."
For students, it is a way to experience class at home and learn science in a cool and unique way.