December 9, 2008

Crossing a Great Divide

I have been a bit off the radar lately, so I thought I would share with you part of what has been occupying most of my time.

It's not the baby (that comes later, as Cari keeps telling me).
It's not Ted (though that would be a wonderful alternative).
It's not even my night classes (though you'd think they would be a gimme).

My students take up most of my brainpower these days. If I'm not teaching them, I'm planning for them or grading work they've completed. I find myself making the day's plans while showering, driving, or even sleeping. Ted can testify to the number of dreams I had regarding "Density and Buoyancy" when we were covering that unit.

My job is all-consuming, and though I complain about the daily grind of it all and the politics surrounding the classroom (any classroom), I really enjoy what I do. I feel a great responsibility for these young, budding minds who may not have the opportunity anywhere else to get a quality education from a few teachers who REALLY care about their welfare. So now that my stack of grading has gone from 12" high down to 9", I found some time to report on my most recent activities.

Our latest unit was on Forces. You know, gravity, friction, pushing and pulling, etc. Any 13-yr old can think this subject is pretty dry. I'm well aware of that, so to spice it up, we began it with dropping raw eggs off a balcony to see if they would break. Each student had a chance to pack one egg in a milk carton with any packing material they wanted and predicted if theirs would break or remain intact. For our first round, without knowing much about what forces were acting on the eggs, we had a 21% survival rate. (We repeated this exercise after our study on forces came to a close, and our percentage of survival almost doubled - pretty exciting!)

Then we moved on to bridges. I LOVE BRIDGES. Pictures of them are great, yes, but DRIVING across them gives me thrills I "can't express in mere words" (a famous Dad line). In preparation for driving across particularly exciting ones (Golden Gate, Coronado Bay, that floating one in Seattle), I've even been known to pull over beforehand and select an appropriate bit of music to have blaring as I travel across - something that blows my skirt up as much as the drive across does.

In lieu of a unit test, I had my students research and explain the forces acting on the three major types of bridges: Beam (including covered and truss bridges), Arch, and Suspension. They came back from Thanksgiving weekend with models they'd built, and were totally excited about some of the bridges they looked up. I loved that they got into the project, and I hope that at least some of them will view these incredible homages to engineering as marvelous and awe-inspiring whenever they come across one in the future. I've shown some of my favorites below.

This one we saw, travelled across, and photographed during our trip through Oregon last summer. Oregon is chock full of cool bridges - one reason I'd move there. The plethora of Dairy Queen stops would be another.

The famous Tower Bridge in London. I travelled across it at night and loved it. How could you not??

The rest I've never seen in person but want to. This one is in Singapore, called Henderson Waves. I love it when designers put something snazzy in there.

The Seven-Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys. See, it's named "Seven Mile Bridge" because, well, it's 18 miles long.

A gorgeous arch bridge in the south of France, called the Pont du Gard.

If Ted ever whisks us away to Boston, I want to go across the Taxpayers' Bridge, named for...well...the people who paid for it. Thanks, people!

This next one is the longest suspension bridge in the world, connecting Kobe to Awaji Island in Japan. Imagine being on this bridge for 2.5 miles! My mom couldn't handle it. She gasps with fear when we go over the 105 to 110 North freeway overpass (and I love it! Wheeeee!!!) This bridge has the added feature of being built to withstand 180-mph gusts and earthquakes of Richter Scale 8.5 - that's pretty intense.

This bridge, called Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (or MMMBT for short), is a 4.6-mile long combination bridge-tunnel system connecting two Virginia communities across the mouth of the James River. So cool - just drive into the water!

I'm grateful to be married to a man who is filled with current event and general trivia knowledge. The other day he came home and told me about Dubai - how it is running out of its usual exportable goods and therefore coming up with alternate forms of money-making ventures. At the top of the list: tourism. This is the proposed mile-long bridge that would run through the city. I love the design on this one.

This last one is something I would never want to be on. It's a video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge (the first one), aka "Gallopin' Gertie" in Washington State. My students had to look up a failed/collapsed bridge in addition to their other research, and several found this one. Take a few minutes to watch it. This footage is shown in introductory physics courses in college as what NOT to do.

The wind that caused the collapse was only going about 40 mph, but the wind's resonance matched the natural resonance of the structure, causing solid concrete and steel to move with a periodic motion - hence the "galloping". We watched the video as a class, and aside from the typical pre-teen responses, most students were in awe that wind could do something like that. I agree!

I realize this is a bit off my normal type of post, but I hope you at least enjoyed some pictures. Contrary to what some students might believe, a little education never hurt anyone.


Stacey said...

Man, those kids are lucky to have you as their teacher...

Jean said...

I lurve briges. I arr so smurt now. Thenks fer teechin me Ms Allisson. :-)

(Really, thanks. It's an enlightening post. That half-bridge-half-tunnel hybrid is totally awesome.)

Michemily said...

I'm so glad you enjoy your job. And thanks for the bridges. How cool.

Kristi said...

Great pictures! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to have you as my teacher - I'd actually pay attention :) That, and, well, who wouldn't just want to look at your, um, er . . . well, you know what I mean!

charrette said...

This is so cool! What would I give ot have had a science teacher like YOU in high school! (Instead I had Myrna M, who talked in a monotone voice and always had yellow chalk on her shirt and peanut butter lunch remains on her face. You are seriously so inspiring! They are so lucky to have you!

LOVE the bridge phots, btw.

Emily S said...

Congrats on your "official teacher" status. I won't say anything cynical because it is a joyous occasion.:)

Love the bridges. There are so many classes I'd love to take or re-take with someone who is passionate teaching them . . . Like Caculus, I'm serious. I really want to take it again from someone who can make me excited about it. Anyway, spending so much time worrying about students is the reason why teaching and family don't mix well for me. I'd lay in bed with my head just whirling around and around about struggling students, math committee meetings, non-valid assessments, and on and on . . . was always reading about how to solve problems, and anyway, way to go, the world needs more of you.

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