Dr. David Kupperman, a physicist who spent 37 years with Argonne National Labs, said, “When it comes to gravity, the force is always with you.” Right off the bat the 4th grade students at Whittier in Mrs. Roskos and Mrs. Weiss’s class were interested in the experiments laid out before them by the visitor from the Oak Park Education Foundation Science Alliance.
Dr. Kupperman created several experiments to show how Galileo’s theory of gravity can be tested as well as Newton’s theory of action/reaction. First off the kids had a chance to drop two objects from the same height to see which would hit the floor first. Each group needed a spotter at the top to make sure the height was even, a dropper, and a spotter at the bottom to see if the objects would hit at the same time or if one would land before the other. They could choose between several ball shaped objects, some metal, plastic, and a feather.
As the kids repeated the test with many objects, they began to realize that all of them were indeed landing at the same time, with the exception of the feather. Dr. Kupperman talked to the class about the pull on objects and how air can interfere with the fall of a light object. He then showed the kids a video of astronauts who decided to give Galileo’s theory a test on the moon, a place where no air exists. Sure enough, when an astronaut dropped a hammer and a feather together, they landed at the same time!
Dr. Kupperman next showed the kids an experiment in which water was poured into a container with holes, causing it to spin due to the force of gravity pushing down on it. The kids made paper helicopters and dropped them to watch them spin down, another result of gravity and Newton’s Theory. He then attached fishing line across the room and taped a balloon onto a straw to make it sail across the space very quickly. The kids loved it! Newton had a theory that for every action – air blowing out of a balloon -there is an opposite and equal reaction -the balloon traveling along the string.
As Harrison told Dr. Kupperman at the end of his visit…”One word describes this…awesome!”
Thanks to parent volunteer Terri McConville for reporting and photographing this great day.