I had the opportunity to visit Mrs. Heaton’s 5th grade GT / advanced learning class at Willow Creek Elementary IMG_5605.jpg this afternoon with one goal in mind… To learn about Newton’s Laws of Motion. The class is currently reading October Sky by Homer Hickam. As part of the study, Mrs. Heaton builds on the science concepts within the story to create a number of great hands-on science lessons. Every good teacher tries to build a mental image of the story or fact that they’re teaching, and the name “Wayne Newton” just popped out during the first part of the lesson. I tried to convince the students that Wayne Newton was Isaac Netwon’s brother who was better at singing than he was at science. Fortunately, only a few bought into the story! There will be some interesting conversation around the dinner table this evening. In an attempt to learn about Newton’s First and Third Laws, the students participated in a number of hands-on activities including the hex nut in the bottle trick.
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What makes this study so different is the way Lisa Heaton masterfully combines literature and hands-on science. Last year’s class concluded their study by making and launching a variety of rockets. Of course, many failed on the launch pad, but the students went back to the drawing board and discovered by trial and error what worked and what didn’t. Watch the movie from last year’s experiments or browse some pictures. Imagine the students’ surprise when Homer Hickam’s wife, Linda, posted a comment on Mrs. Heaton’s blog and even sent an autographed picture and a letter from the author.
As a homework assignment, each of the students in this year’s class were asked to post a comment on this blog post explaining today’s “experience” in class. Emily performed the tablecloth trick (demonstrating Newton’s First Law of Inertia) masterfully!

31 replies
  1. Emily
    Emily says:

    This experience was amazing!!! The thing I enjoyed the most was pulling the tablecloth out from under the many dishes. It was very exciting. At first, I thought I was going to break the dishes but after the first time, I knew I could do it. It helped me understand Newton’s first law, “˜The tendency of an object to stay at rest or to remain in motion until force acts upon it.’ I thought that the laws were confusing until the experiments that we did. (ex. The nuts and the bottle, the balloon demo, and the rockets made from bottles.) It was all very unbelievable. The third law is “˜Every action has an equal reaction.’ We learned that by have balloons blown up then letting go of the end. The balloon went flying which showed the equal reaction. It was all very exciting and I hope to do it again soon.

    Reply
  2. James
    James says:

    It’s true, Wayne Newton in not related to Isaac Newton! We studied the first law of Isaac Newton today. That is, an object will stay at rest until a force acts upon it. For example, the hex nut experiment. Also, we learned about Bernoulli’s principal, fast moving air creates low pressure. For example, if you blow on a piece of paper straight on it will always go down. Plus, if you pull down on a table cloth with plates on top the plates will stay still. That also applies to the first law of Isaac Newton. The third law of Isaac Newton is for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. A balloon will push back, but propel forward. Also, if you make a squeeze bottle rocket air will build up in the bottle and send the straw across a room. Last, when you’re in the shower and the curtain starts caving in on you it Bernoulli’s principal.

    Reply
  3. Connor
    Connor says:

    Wow! This was the absolute best reading class ever. Mr. Spangler, hats off. You really know your science. You taught us so many things about rocketry. My favorite part had to be either launching balloons in the principal’s office or the bottle rockets. Bernoulli’s principle was quite cool. If you hadn’t seen someone do the experiment with the paper, you’d think that if you blew on top it would go down and if you blew from the bottom that it would go up. I will certainly remember this principle because off the attack of the shower curtain joke. Remember fast moving air= low air pressure. After you taught us about gravity, I really enjoyed how you showed us how to tee pee a house. By the way, have you ever used that trick? I will also not forget Newton’s third law of for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
    Originally, I thought that it was diabolical and that all of the glass items on the table would break. I can’t believe that the water didn’t spill or anything. The bottle rockets were very fun. How did you find out that these bottles were the exact right size for the straw? It’s really a neat trick. It’s not really related to the subject of rockets, but how do you make the flaming wallet work. Well any who, you really made my day. I hope that you’ll show us some of the ways that you came up with these tricks next time.

    Reply
  4. Ethan
    Ethan says:

    I’m Ethan from Mrs. Heaton’s class, here to tell you about the math equation: front office+principal+flying balloons=lots of fun. Here’s what we did: the entire class took and blew up 1 tube balloon each (untied). Then we paraded those balloons right down to the front office and marched in. We caled the principal out and explained Newton’s third law to him (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). After that, we let the balloons fly!!! Right in front of the principals face!! Then we turned and marched back out, not bothering to pick the balloons back up. It was totally awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  5. Tayler H
    Tayler H says:

    Today we learned about Newtons laws. Newtons 3rd law was the one I liked the most. The law was every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Steve Spangler said a balloon was a perfect example of the 3rd law. If a inflated balloon is let go all the air comes out or it deflates causing the balloon to fly across the room. Today we got inflated balloons walked in to our principles office and we said “we are learning about Newtons 3rd law and we will show you example now.” Everyone let go of there balloons and they went flying everywhere. They made a really bad sqweeling noise. We also learned about Newtons 1st law. The law is the tendency of an object to stay at rest until a force acts upon it. We took a plastic water bottle and put a business card on the opening of the bottle then we took some hex nuts and laid them on top of the business card. We then flicked the card and the nuts fell into the water bottle. All in all I think that Newtons laws are really cool now that I understand them.

    Reply
  6. Alec
    Alec says:

    Today in class Steve Spangler came and taught us about Newton’s 1st and 3rd laws of motion. Emily did the tablecloth trick with the most number of plates and cups ever used at Willow Creek before. This demonstrated the 1st law. I am going to try this trick tonight! Then the class went to the main office and set off balloons in front of the principal, Mr. Belshe. This demonstrated the 3rd law. My favorite trick that Steve taught us was the hex nut in the bottle trick. It is when you try to get the hex nut into the bottle without touching the hex nut. This demonstrates the 1st law. I really enjoyed when Steve came to our class today. I hope he comes back soon.

    Reply
  7. Grant
    Grant says:

    When Steve Spangler entered the GT room,I had no idea who he was or what he was doing. He said something I can’t recall, pulled out a wallet and a small blast of fire came out. The class began cheering. I leaned over and asked Ethan who he was. “That’s Steve Spangler, a science guy from the news.” I knew I recognized him from somewhere.”He came here in third grade and did a presentation for us.” When he pulled out Kool-Aid from the box he said we couldn’t be rocketeers without
    juice. So, the class rushed over to the table and all the best flavors were gone in seconds. He told us to save the bottles. Our first experiment was with Newton’s first law. We put a business card on top of an empty bottle then put some metal nuts on top. We tried to pull the card out fast enough so that the bolts would fall in the bottle. I wasn’t too good at it.
    After lunch, we created Kool-Aid bottle rockets. We put a straw in the juice bottle, sealed it with clay, then put another staw on top, and sealed that one with clay. We then shot our “bottle-rockets” at each other, then reloaded for more. We left the GT room at 2:00, our brains much expanded.

    Reply
  8. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    My favorite part was when we shot the balloons off in the front office. It was funny because we didn’t pick up the balloons, we just left them there. I also like the trying to get the hex nuts into the bottle. I got all 3 of the nuts into the bottle with the card but only 1 from the loop. The wallet was cool, too. I think that it opened from both sides and when you open it from one side a string pulls a lighter switch which makes a flame but when you open it from the other side nothing happens. When Emily Coates pulled the tablecloth out from under the plates and the cup full of water I didn’t think that everything was going to stay up. I would like to try that on Thanksgiving with all my mom’s china but I think that the crease would pull everything onto the floor and break!

    Ever since you stopped coming to our school I hoped that you would pop in for a class or two and now you came.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Mercedes
    Mercedes says:

    Mercedes says:
    I really liked the bottle rockets. It was very simlpe to do. All we did was just take empty Kool-Aid bottles, took a straw, put it through the top of the bottle and sealed it up with clay. Next, we took a larger straw and put it on top of the other straw, then sealed the top of the straw up with clay. Finally, just squeeze the bottle, and you have your “rocket” Another thing we did was fill up skinny balloons with air, then let them off in our school’s front office! You should have seen our principle’s face when we did that!! When we did that we were experimenting with Wayne Newton’s first law. All in all, I loved this day when we learned about Wayne Newton, n ot Isaac Newton!!

    Reply
  10. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    WAYNE NEWTON IS NOT ISAAC NEWTON’S BROTHER!
    Today when Steve Spangler visited Willow Creek Elementary, in Centennial, Colorado he talked about “Wayne”? Newton’s laws of motion. It took awhile for one of us to say, “I thought Isaac Newton was the scientist, and Wayne Newton was the singer!”? Wayne Newton and Isaac Newton are not brothers at all as I said before; in fact their careers are almost complete opposites. While Isaac conducted scientific experiments. Wayne is conducting songs in Vegas, a far cry from science. After a fun afternoon at school I told my mom what we learned, but used Wayne Newton instead of Isaac. All she said was, “That’s nice honey.”? I couldn’t help smiling so she quickly got my joke!

    As we learned about Isaac’s third law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, Steve used a blown balloon to demonstrate this. As he released the balloon the air was going out one end”¦ the balloon was zooming the opposite way”¦ whoosh! I bet Wayne, I mean Isaac didn’t have this much fun doing his experiments. We all got a blown balloon and marched down to the front office. Steve informed the principal what we were studying and then said, “NOW!”? We all let go of our balloons and they flew everywhere like zooming rockets. He told when we got back to our classroom that the principal said, “I’ll be seeing you later.”? (As in he might be making a visit to the principal’s office.) UH-OH!

    Today was the most fun I’ve ever had in Mrs. Heaton’s class, and I know my peers would agree!

    Reply
  11. Asha
    Asha says:

    Man!That Steve Spangler is always tricking us! We were talking about Newton’s laws. I said, “Isn’t his name Isaac Newton?” “No,” he replies,” That’s his long lost brother!” To tell you the truth, I half bought it for a second. Finally he says that Wayne Newton is his name. I think,”ok, works for me, WAIT!” Wayne Newton is a singer at Las Vegas. He confesses.
    To do our first experiment, we studied Wayne’s, OOOPS, I mean Isaac’s 1st law. Inertia- an object tends to stay at rest until a motion acts upon it. We put a buisness card on top of an open bottle. Then, we put a hexnut on top of the card. If you flick the card away really fast, the hexnut falls in. I showed my parents and they thought it was awesome.
    We did many more experiments and I must say, maybe science isn’t about reading out of boring textbooks. Maybe science is this wacky, yet fun discovering subject. I hope you can meet Steve Spangler and enjoy some science!!

    Reply
  12. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Today in class we had a very fun and exciting learning experience. We talked about the first and third Isaac Newton Laws of Physics. The first rule is the tendency of an object that is in motion to remain in motion until a force acts upon it. We demonstrated this by doing the tablecloth trick and by doing the same trick with a nut a card and bottle. It was a fun way to learn about this, and the experiments made a lot of sense.

    When we demonstrated the third law, we used balloons and we made squeeze bottle rockets. This was really fun because it showed how the third law worked and it made us laugh at the same time. We got to go to the principles office, and we hid the balloons behind our backs. When we got there, Asha explained the third law to our principle., and when Steve Spangler said “now”? we all set off our balloons. It was very funny and we laughed all the way back to our classroom.

    Reply
  13. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Thank you so much for joining Mrs. Heaton’s class today, Mr. Spangler. I enjoyed learning about Wayne Newton the most. I tried telling my mom and dad that Wayne Newton found out about gravity, but they don’t agree. They think that it couldn’t have been Wayne Newton because he was born in the 1900s, while gravity was discovered long before then. I agree with them, because we didn’t just discover gravity a few years ago.

    I also liked the experiments, especially making the bottle rockets. It was awesome launching straws at other people and I hope that I can do that again. When we launched the balloons in the front office, you could have compared it to a hive of angry bumble bees because they were zooming all around the room and making buzzing sounds.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you again and hope you will teach classes at West Middle School next year, which is where I’m going.

    Reply
  14. lisa heaton
    lisa heaton says:

    WOW! What a day! Wayne would surely be proud to get credit for what we learned today. Too bad it’s Isaac that did all the work! I’ll bet that everyone in the class will NEVER forget Newton’s 1st and 3rd Laws now! We did amazing hands-on experiments with Steve Spangler that helped cement the concepts in our minds! My favorite part was watching the entire class delight in the activity, the wonder and the excitement of learning new and important information. I would bet that each person in class today, will chuckle for the rest of their lives, every time they hear Wayne Newton’s name. And every time they hear of Isaac Newton, they will vividly recall the demonstrations in their 5th grade class, that led to a solid understanding of these two laws. Some physics teacher down the line will appreciate the foundation set today.

    I have a question for my class: Why do you think it is important for you to understand Newton’s 1st & 3rd Law, while reading October Sky (aka, Rocket Boys)? You can blog your answers.

    Reply
  15. Wade
    Wade says:

    Today in class we had the incredibly awesome experience. Mr. Steve Spangler came to our class and taught us about Isaac Newton. Mr.Spangler asked me if I knew who Newton was. I said it was Isaac Newton but Mr. Spangler said it was Wayne Newton. That was strange because my sister told me that Isaac Newton had 3 laws. It turns out that Mr. Spangler was pulling my leg and that Wayne Newton was a singer in Las Vegas. But the strange part was that I actually believed him.
    We also got to let go of non-tied baloons in the front office. the front office is where the principle does his work. I never will forget that experience. when we left our principle went up to Mr.Spangler and said “I will see you later”. At the very end of our experience Mr.Spangler asked a fellow classmate Emily if she would try and rip the table cloth off without the dishes on the table falling off. Then she did it with the LEANING TOWER of DISHES and a glass of water that was half full. My favorite part of the day was the bottle rockets. You got an empty bottle of cool-aid, 1 short straw, 1 long straw and 2 pieces of clay. You put the short straw through the cool-aid bottle and wrap clay around it. Then get the long straw and cover on end with clay.Then put the long straw over the short straw and press down on the bottle. In conclusion today was the most fantastic, spectacular and awsomest reading class I have ever had. thanks for the great experience Mr.Spangler.

    Reply
  16. Steve
    Steve says:

    Hi Everyone – Great job on posting your first blog. Does this make you a blogger? Blogging is one of the new ways that people are communicating and sharing their ideas in a forum that’s better than a chat room. The experts estimate that 70,000 blogs are created every day. That’s a ton of blogging… but who’s reading them? When you “google” a topic, many times you’ll run into a blog devoted specifically to that topic. You have to remember to put on your objective filter when you’re reading blogs because the information is only as good as the person who’s writing it. It’s a great way to get connected to a group of people who share similar hobbies and interests. There are blogs written about anything and everything under the sun. Some high school students are creating academic blogs about themselves. Instead of turning their blog into a social “chat room”, the blog is a way for them to post their accomplishments in sports, in school, samples of their writing, art, music, etc. Their blog is really their academic portfolio.

    Great job today. I’ll be back after Spring break to work on designing rockets. Just warn the neighbors to be on the lookout for unidentified flying objects.

    Reply
  17. collin
    collin says:

    today we learned about the newton laws and about these cool experiments. we learned about isaac newton. it was really fun and we learned so much! i can’t wait t9il he comes back. We learned about bernolli. if you blow on a peice of papper and then it kinda flew every where! I love watching the weather on the wheather channel. i can read the wheather maps sorta. i see you too it’s nice to teach kids all around colorado with science. sincerely, collin

    Reply
  18. James
    James says:

    It’s important to understand Newton’s 1st and 3rd law for our book, October Sky, aka Rocket Boys, because if you didn’t know this then you wouldn’t know what half the entire book is about. If you don’t know what half the book is about is about you’ll never be able to enjoy a good book. If you can’t enjoy it what’s the whole point of reading the book? That’s why it’s important for us to learn how a rocket launches, what you need to launch it, and other things that make the book enjoyable. That’s why it’s important to understand Newton’s 1st and 3rd law.

    Reply
  19. Grant
    Grant says:

    I think it is important for the characters in Rocket Boys to know Newton’s laws because they wouldn’t know how to launch a rocket. They must learn everything to
    know about rockets because they’ll never be able to
    launch their own without this knowledge.

    Reply
  20. Tayler
    Tayler says:

    I think that the rocket boys need to learn Newtons 1st and 3rd law because they are trying to build the best rockets possible. Newtons 1st law applys to rockets because the law is the tendancy of an object to stay still until a force acts upon it, and for rockets that is refering to the motionless rocket and then the takeoff. The 3rd law is every ation has an equal and opposite reaction, so that means when the rocket takes off the gases that were produced when the rocket was ignited come out of the rocket, which causes the rocket to shoot into the sky.

    Reply
  21. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Answer to question from Mrs. Heaton:

    I think that it is important for us to understand Newton’s 1st and 3rd laws because I believe this will help us to understand how the rockets fly and what makes them fly. This will benefit us because we will be able to really understand what Sonny and his friends are talking about when they are building and launching rockets. Knowing what Newton’s 1st and 3rd laws are, I know that I will be able to understand more clearly the science behind what is going on in the book!

    Reply
  22. Alec
    Alec says:

    To answer Mrs. Heaton’s question, I think it is important to understand Newton’s 1st and 3rd Laws because these are the basis of rocketry. The 1st Law shows that if a rocket is sitting on a pad it will continue to sit there unless some force is applied to get it moving. The 3rd Law explains the importance of fuel. Rockets burn fuel and push the exhaust gases in a direction opposite to the direction in which they wish to go. Understanding these two Laws will help me understand the science in October Sky. I can see why Sonny and the Rocket Boys tried different combinations of powder to create the best fuel. Now they need to figure out how to make the rockets go in the direction desired. They also want to find out how high their rockets go but Mrs. Heaton will have to teach us trigonometry first! Finally it was important to understand Newton’s Laws because we will be building our own rockets and this information will help us. I am looking forward to having Steve visit our class again.

    Reply
  23. Grant
    Grant says:

    I think it is important for the rocket boys to know Newton’s first and third laws of physics because rocket science requires it. They’d never be able to launch a
    rocket in the first place if the hadn’t learned Newton’s
    theroys. Its too bad the rocket boys doesn’t have many members, because the more people, the faster you learn how not to build a rocket, and tasks will get done much faster. If I am correct, the current members of the BCMA
    are Homer, Sherman, Roy Lee, O’Dell, Quentin, and Billy.
    Maybe instead of letting people ask him, Sonny should ask some people on his own to join the BCMA. It was also sad to hear Homer doesn’t marry Dorothy Plunk. I wonder if the person he really does marry will appear later in the story.

    Reply
  24. Asha
    Asha says:

    I think it is VERY important to under stand Newton’s 1st and 3rd law because the book is called”Rocket” Boys.(October Sky) Without Newton’s 1st and 3rd law you wouldn’t get the “rocket” part, and then what’s the point of even reading the book? I really think that Sonny should get more “Quentin” like people for the BCMA. Rocket science is quite simple if you’ve memorized Newton’s laws.

    Reply
  25. Asha
    Asha says:

    I think it is VERY important to under stand Newton’s 1st and 3rd law because the book is called”?Rocket”? Boys.(October Sky) Without Newton’s 1st and 3rd law you wouldn’t get the “rocket”? part, and then what’s the point of even reading the book? I really think that Sonny should get more “Quentin”? like people for the BCMA. Rocket science is quite simple if you’ve memorized Newton’s laws. Since they finally have the fuel correct, all they need is to master trigonometry. Jack Moseby and Billy prove to be quite helpful in this process. I am enjoying learning about rockets and I hope Steve can come everyday!!

    Reply
  26. wade
    wade says:

    I think Newtons 1st and 3rd laws are important because it will help us in learning about how the rockets fly. The first law tells us that unless something acts upon the rocket. Sonny would never get a rocket in the sky unless a force acts upon it. I am not sure how the 3rd law will help us while we are reading the book. In conclusion, the 1st law tells us that unless something acts upon the rocket.

    Reply
  27. Ryan M.
    Ryan M. says:

    I think it’s important to understand Newton’s 1st and 3rd laws when reading October Sky because they are the laws that define motion and what happens when forces are applied to objects – such as a rocket being launched.

    Newton’s 1st law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) is important when launching a rocket because when the fuse is lit and it ignites the fuel, the gases shoot out of the end of the rocket (the action), causing it to be propelled upward (the reaction).

    Newton’s 3rd law (every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it) is also important to understand because the rocket will stay on the launch pad until a force makes it do something. Also, once the rocket is moving upwards, it will keep going until it is pulled back down by the external force of gravity. I didn’t understand what Newton’s laws had to do with the book and how they helped the boys learn to launch rockets when I first read the book. But now, after having this class with Steve Spangler, I understand the connection between the laws and the book.

    Reply
  28. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    I think it is important for the characters in October Sky (a.k.a. Rocket boys) to know Newton’s first and third laws because without them, they would not be able to launch rockets of their own. Newton’s first law comes in to play because the force that acts upon the rocket pushes it up. So an object will stay at rest until a force acts upon it. Newton’s third law comes in because when the gas or the propellant pushes downwards the rocket shoots upward. So for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is why I think the characters in October Sky need to know Newton’s first and third laws.

    Reply
  29. Mercedes
    Mercedes says:

    I think it is VERY, VERY important to know Newton’s first and third law whilr reading because the law’s contribute a lot about rockets and you need to know about Newton’s 1st and 3rd law to get the whole rocket part. Is think if you didn’t know these law’s you would be confused (and agitated that you couldn’t understand the book) while reading Rocket Boys (October Sky). All in all I think it is very important that you know Newton’s 1st and 3rd law to understand the rocket science in this book.

    Reply
  30. Jonathan CHM
    Jonathan CHM says:

    Newton’s third law of physics states that every force there is a reaction force that is equal in size but opposite in direction.
    However, in reality, it is not so and the third law of physics does not seem to be applicable.

    The following is one of the exceptional case:

    If this theory is true, there should not be any revenge in this world.  This is due to a trouble-maker that gives a punch to a victim that causes that victim to have internally injured would receive the same force that is in opposite direction.  If that is true, the victim should not fight back but to let the trouble-maker to beat him up.

    Reply
  31. Jonathan CHM
    Jonathan CHM says:

    A heavy-weight duty boxer hits a victim and it could cause the skull of the victim to break and yet the hand of this heavy-weight duty boxer does not receive any injury. How could Newton’s third law of physics explains this.

    If Newton’s third law of physics is sound and that every force there should be a reaction force that is equal in size but opposite in direction, the victim should not block from that heavy-weight duty boxer since the victim should know that that heavy-weight duty boxer would receive the same force that is equal in size as he receives.

    Reply

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