Give Your Classroom Bubble Lessons
Watch out, high schoolers. There’s a New Greenhouse Formal somewhere coming to a classroom near you.
You may have already heard about OK Go’s favorite way to end their videos: with a bubble. Weirdly hypnotic, bubble physics or not, it’s sure to send shivers down your spine, but you’ll have to stop at a certain point to get a closer look.
The reason bubbles are so appealing is because they inspire such emotion in the viewer.
But watching the video gives nothing to the viewer! That is until you realize the effect can also be used to help make a point in a classroom. A 2016 study that analyzed over 50 million videos in search engines between 2012 and 2015 found that three-quarters of the videos (71%) began with a bubble.
The happiness factor is a major reason. In a site that’s all about getting your students up on their feet to dance and groove to some good old-fashioned pop music, the iconic bubble video is irresistible.
Overtime, it’s become a regular feature that “gotcha” videos end with a bubble drop.
Take a look at some of these clips and you’ll see, that clip isn’t just meant to entertain. Sometimes, in classrooms, it’s the teacher who is the “gotcha” in the video, provoking reflection and discussion around important lessons.
Now, unless you’re a physics major, bubbles are hard for most of us to wrap our heads around. The least easy part for students is to contemplate, “You know, I’m suppose to sit here and quietly study when I get to class, but I just want to throw bubbles out of a window?”
So, the teacher creates a lesson about uncertainty and doesn’t use a textbook, having the students actually watch some of their own video experiments to learn.
Interestingly, in the above 2014 article in Scientific American, the researchers asked students in six U.S. colleges and universities to write a case study about how to initiate discussion during a video and how to achieve this aim.
Though clearly “gotcha”, the contents of the clip weren’t too scary, so most students found it fun. The reason, they say, is the bubble as a memorable visual metaphor.
Adopt it into your own lessons, and the effect could be just as amazing.
I definitely think using bubble research for research applications is really useful for teaching. In fact, during my time as a sophomore research advisor, I watched a student walk across the stage with a cartoon bubble in her hair. Seeing a pop is powerful, however, it’s something you need to see happening for yourself before you can show it to your students.
A further great part of bubbles in classroom lessons is the way they act as visual inspiration. Having students play around with the physics to turn the bubble into a viable object will cause them to draw inspiration from the experience to create and change their own bubbles. Just remember, these are all your students’ lessons, and you can’t overstep the boundaries, regardless of the fun you might have creating a video, once the teacher sees you pretending to be a scientist.
Having a snowball’s chance in hell and still getting a high school graduate is nothing to laugh about. But with a bit of creativity, teachers can get students thinking in ways that sometimes didn’t seem possible in their classrooms.
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