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 Featured Teacher Kevin Corrigan Students Inclined to Study Galileo Program Title: Galileo's Battle for the Heavens Subject(s): Physics Grade Level: 9

 Teacher Kevin Corrigan (center) and one of his students record the descent time of the steel ball that another student has just released.
Students in Kevin Corrigan's integrated science classes recently got the ball rolling in their quest to understand linear motion and acceleration.

Corrigan had his ninth grade students at Melrose High School in Massachusetts view the first hour of NOVA's program "Galileo's Battle for the Heavens." They used a study guide to focus on the science and the obstacles that Galileo had to overcome. Then students viewed segments from the second hour that focus on inclined planes and falling bodies. To learn more about Galileo, students then read Dava Sobel's essay, "His Place in Science," on the companion NOVA Web site.

Over a two- to three-week period, students completed three activities. The first was a hands-on investigation of accelerated motion adapted from a lab in Conceptual Physics by Paul Hewitt. Run as a whole-class activity, the lab started with students setting up a ramp with a specific angle of the incline. They marked off four release points on the ramp and timed how long it took for a ball to travel from the release point to the bottom. Students ran three trials from each release point. For each trial several students measured the time, which helped the class verify data reliability. Finally, students calculated the average time for each of the four distances. Then the ramp's incline of was changed and the steps were repeated until students collected three data sets.

The class graphed distance against average time for each trial. Corrigan says that by the third data set, students start to see the relationship between distance and time. Students discover—just as Galileo did—that distance is proportional to the time squared.

In the second activity, students completed virtual versions of Galileo's experiments on the NOVA Web site, which included falling objects, projectiles, inclined planes, and pendulums. For each experiment, students predicted the outcome, ran the virtual experiment, and reflected in writing on the accuracy of their predictions. They considered how the NOVA program and lab activities leading up to this activity helped them form their predictions.

In the final activity, students used the Interactive Physics CD-ROM by MSC.Software as part of a lab activity developed by one of Corrigan's colleagues, Peter Tarsi of Attleboro High School in Massachusetts. Students studied an accelerating object and collected data on its velocity and acceleration over time as it moved down a stationary ramp. Students then drew conclusions about the relationships among velocity, acceleration, and time.

As part of his assessment, Corrigan had students submit a portfolio that included their work for the unit's activities. According to Corrigan, who has been teaching for 29 years, the NOVA materials help motivate student learning. "The PBS broadcast has been an excellent hook for my students," he says. "They are showing genuine interest and enthusiasm for this topic on acceleration and falling bodies."

Corrigan's two-part study guide for "Galileo's Battle for the Heavens" is online at: Part I | Part II