All year, we have featured highlights from the BDS science curriculum. Our last Spotlight column for this year is, indeed, about science, but it is also a celebration of the creativity of an exceptional teacher.
Today is Mr. Chaves’ final Field Day.
Field Day is a joy-filled tradition involving water balloons, Hippity-Hops, Frisbees, a vast collection of tubes, balls, buckets, watering cans, and…rubber chickens. It is Mr. Chaves’ brainchild, an event planned to the “Nth Degree,” as he himself would say. All of the day’s six challenges involve aspects of scientific thinking or intuitive responses to physical phenomena, some in more whimsical ways than others.
In the gym, students compete in “Big Ball Bowling,” rolling basketballs into large trash barrels that have been balanced on their sides. Mr. Chaves has the utmost confidence in our students’ ability to apply their knowledge of Newtonian physics to this challenge.
They aim and roll their balls to create an efficient transfer of potential to kinetic energy.
They demonstrate an appreciation for horizontal and vertical velocity, and they exhibit control over friction and torque.
Outside, on Claflin Field, competitors face the daunting tasks of the “Bucket Brigade,” an elaborate relay race involving transferring water from one end of a lane to the other. Success in this event requires participants’ careful attention to fluid dynamics and an ability to create funnels with their bare hands. Also on Claflin Field is the “Frisbee Fling,” a straightforward investigation of the principles of aerodynamics. Mr. Chaves knows that the Frisbee is an airfoil with a deep curvature, that the Frisbee’s spinning motion provides stability in flight, and that the shape of the Frisbee is designed for lift. Students earn points for their skill in transferring this knowledge into practice.
On the tennis court, “Skee Ball” provides a lesson in the ballistic trajectory of projectiles. In order to earn points, team members must gauge force and distance as they toss tennis balls into vertical tubes. The “Water Balloon Toss” reinforces this concept, and also demands an understanding of the impulse-momentum-theorem:
Mr. Chaves’ explanation of this important concept would sound something like this: moving your hands back slightly as you catch the balloon helps to reduce the impact of the balloon on your hand.
On the Far Field, the “Fair or Fowl Relay” involves an application of Newton’s Third Law when students bounce their way around a race course on Hippity Hops. This race also involves rubber chickens, which have great significance within the scientific community, especially since the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory’s Mission Mascot is Camilla, a rubber chicken who flew into a solar flare this spring. Finally, the Tug of War raises the question of inertia: which matters more, friction or force?
The very last component of Field Day deals with the thermodynamics of popsicles on a summer day and the process of converting a frozen treat from solid to liquid state. What more could we want to round out a morning of full-contact science?
Thank you, Mr. Chaves, for Field Day, for bringing joy to our school, and for sharing your incredible gift of teaching with all of us.