Exploring Gravity


We observed a pretty magical thing today. One of our students took out the pouring pasta exercise - yes, that’s a real thing! There are many purposes to the activity, one of which is to develop an appreciation for, and experience of, the role that gravity plays in our lives.

As this student attempted to carefully and equally distribute the pasta into the three smaller, equally-sized glass containers, something unusual happened. A few of the pieces of pasta got stuck on the bottom of the pitcher. You should have seen the look on her face.

Now, immediately, as if in succession, she started rattling off possible explanations, trying to deduce exactly why the pasta couldn’t be removed. It was a total mystery. As she was going through possible scenarios in her head, she shook the pitcher, gently pounding on it with the side of her hand, almost like one would try to coax ketchup out of the bottle.

Then, turning to her guide for thoughts, together they worked through a few different possible reasons, before finally arriving at an interesting solution: somehow, water had found its way to the bottom of the pitcher, causing the pasta to stick.

As we witnessed this experience, we suddenly remembered something that Steve Jobs said: "The elements of discovery are around you. You don't need a computer to know..I mean, here..(Steve Jobs picks up and objects and let's it fall to the ground)…Why does that fall? You know why? Nobody knows why. Nobody in the entire world knows why that falls. We can describe it pretty accurately, but no one knows why. I don't need a computer to get a kid interested in that. To spend a week playing with gravity and trying to understand it, and coming up with reasons why. You do need a person."