TED Radio Talk: How Star Wars Energized My High School Physics Students

◊ 5th. Give Students Meaningful Challenges: “Real-world” power over their environment; Skills they can use without their Teacher!; “Real World” Work: kids want to lift Star Fighters, Save the city from monsters, not solve abstract “word problems.”

The “real world” challenges remind me of the Ted Radio talk I heard this weekend by the guy who taught high school physics and realized he was boring people to sleep by giving them tasks like “Calculate how many joules it takes to lift a  5 kg objects 3 meters…”  but when he switched to “Calculate how much energy it would take Luke skywalker to lift his starfighter out of the swamp” their enthusiasm exploded and it was all he could do to keep up with them:

“Let’s see,” the students said, “we can figure out the standard gravity on the planet from the Star Wars Wikipedia!”
“And  let’s figure out mass of starfighter from same source!” Then:
“What formulas do we need to calculate the amount of energy needed, let’s check physics text!”