The Secret of Trapezes (1995)

Running time: Approx. 16 minutes (15:55)

Price: $15.00  

  • Description: Science research lessons on pendulums. Grade 5, Shizuoka University attached Elementary School, Japan.

  • Background on the video: This video shows the 7th and 8th of 10 lessons on pendulums, taught to fifth graders in a national public elementary school in Shizuoka, Japan. In prior lessons, students have created desktop "trapezes" and tried to make them swing at different speeds in order to transfer a paper-clip "acrobat" from one trapeze to the other (see illustration on reverse). Students chose to investigate three factors they thought influenced the speed of the trapeze cycle:

    1. The weight of clay on the trapeze

    2. The angle of release of the trapeze

    3. The length of the trapeze wire

In the "research lessons," students investigate these three factors. Of the three, only the length of the wire actually affects the cycle time of the trapeze. This research lesson is "practice" for a large public research lesson to be held four months later, which will concern different science content, but the same school research theme, "By conversing with nature, build scientific perspectives and ways of thinking." All the school's teachers and several outside educators (both elementary and collegiate) attend.

Teachers who observe the lesson receive 42 pages of material including the lesson plans, unit plan, teachers' thinking about the approaches that build "scientific perspectives and ways of thinking," analyses and excerpts of student work, and the dialogue of three students selected for study by the teachers. Short biographies of these three students suggest the reason for their selection. Excerpts follow:

  • "Takumi" was a child who rarely spoke up in class but had shown the most interest and ability in science, and it was hoped that science might be the vehicle for him to "gain recognition from his friends and learn the importance and satisfaction of participation in discussions."

  • "Sadako" was a child who was frequently at the center of class discussions and expressed her preferences and opinions very strongly. It was hoped that she would "control conditions as precisely as possible, become aware of measurement error, and develop a scientific way of thinking . . . we want to closely observe how carefully she considers others' opinions and reconstructs her ideas."

  • "Kouji" was a child who liked science and, using commercially available science comics, had already covered the science curriculum the class would be studying, but "his knowledge alone will not convince his friends. He will struggle to learn how experiments should be designed and interpreted . . . Through such activities, I hope that he will learn to analyze findings carefully, and develop scientific ways of thinking."