Video Story Problem – Water, Friction, and Force

Oct 27, 2011 by

In my never ending quest to find an engaging way to bring the real world into the classroom, I captured some video of my children and I playing with one of those massive rolling granite sphere water fountains. I’ve never really been intriqued by the tiny little desktop versions of these fountains, where a small amount of water is able to “float” a tiny granite sphere the size of a baseball, and then allow it to rotate freely. The stones usually fit in your hand, and the entire effect seems clunky and obvious.

However, when you come across a stone sphere that’s more than half your height, and most likely weighs several hundred pounds, you realize there’s no possible way any one person could cause it to move or rotate with one hand. Yet all it takes is a little bit of gurgling water to set it in motion, and that’s when I become curious.

While most of the videos people have added to the video story channel on Vimeo involve math, I feel like there’s a compelling way to use inquiry to help guide and engage science exploration as well. As a science minor, and a former middle school science teacher, I always love to make science concepts hands-on, relevant, and interactive. This giant “floating” sphere fits all of those criteria as you can find many of them in large urban malls or gardens, where (as you can see in the video) people are welcome to touch and play with it.

Although I added a few questions to the end of the video, I’m curious to know how someone else might use a video like this to spur discussion on the topic of water, friction, pressure, or forces in a science classroom.

Check out more video story problems for math and science on the Video Story Problem Channel on Vimeo! You’re also welcome to start producing your own (or get your students producing some), and come join us!