Planes, trains, and automobiles: Physics at home


Bruce Jagid ’21

 Mushrooms, record players, basketball hoops; not the latest art from ceramics, but the latest builds from the physics K’Nex Kits. RE students eagerly anticipated their STEM courses for the 2020-2021 school year that were to take place in the newly built STEM center. Now they are remote, yet the physics department is set to facilitate the same engaging classroom experience from the comfort of students’ homes. At the laptop pick-upstudents were given large boxes of physics supplies.  

“As I pulled up to the school, emotionally I was feeling very overwhelmed because it had been months since I haseen my teachers and I missed my school dearly… Seeing Mr. Natland rolling around on the cart made my heart skip a beat,” said Isabel Almada ‘21. 

 When asked about his curriculum choices for the 2020-2021 school year, Natland explained, “I wanted you to be able to do stuff away from the screen that was meaningful. Students were sent home with five-foot-long pieces of lumber, assorted balls, rubber bands, and springs, a scale, and a K’Nex kit. Natland went through three different scales trying to choose one for the class and over one hundred springs to find the perfect one to use for his mechanics assignments. What sits in the kits at home with students required tens of hours of research and development.  

Yuhan Liu ’21

I first got the idea from my son’s kit. We built a car. I then bought six kits and built a bunch of different things. I found out I could fulfill my entire mechanics program, he said. Students will be doing motion video analysis, oscillating a mass on a spring, making a pendulum, creating a modified Atwood’s machine and more all from their home.  

Natland asked students to send in photos of themselves with their creations to prove that they completed their coursework. Naturally, the AP Physics C class became creative with their photos while turning in their first KNex assignment, standing on refrigerators, photoshopping their arms reaching out of the toilet with the project, and making a photo that appeared as if their project was being held hostage 

Natland revealed plans that would challenge students to build large structures using the tools in the kit. It’s something fun to do and that was intentional,” said Natland“Yes, the kit says seven and up, – some people might ask what is this?’ But there aren’t kits like this. We are using K’Nex in a way they aren’t designed for – utilizing their modularity.” Virtual school has led teachers, like Natland, to turn ordinary into the extraordinary 

When Jordan Hoffman’21 was asked to submit a photo of his K’Nex build, he took advantage of his artistic freedoms. “Since we have had all the materials [I have enjoyed labs from home],” he said, noting that the labs at home ran smoothly. Hoffman’s friends Justin Wong ’21 and Bruce Jagid ‘21 also took the liberty to create candid and quirky photos.  

“I thought it would be funny, and since we know Mr. Natland, we thought he would be okay with it, Hoffman is looking forward to continuing his physics studies at home. “This year we have a lot more materialsI am sure it will go well.” 

Danny Mendoza ’21