Research as play

Following up on my post on research and play a few days ago, this experiment described in a New York Times article today, “Powerhouse School District Reaches Beyond the Elite” is a perfect example of how authentic research can also incorporate play.

At the middle school, the entire seventh grade is taking part in the science of sports project to fulfill the new research requirement. The students are creating a database of their individual running times, first in sneakers and then in alternate footwear, and evaluating how variables like height, gender, birth date and shoe type affect speed. They will present their findings in a research paper or PowerPoint presentation.

“I learned that I move faster without my shoes,” said Jermaine Brown, 13. “This is really fun, and it’s better than sitting in class.”

David Katz, the science teacher who came up with the running experiment, said that when he first asked students if they wanted to do original scientific research, 2 of 23 raised their hands. When they found out the research would involve sports, they all jumped up.

“They think research is more work, more papers,” he said. “But if you teach them in a way they can relate to, they grow to love it.”

That’s what making research play-filled is all about.

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