September 01, 2003 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The golf courses at the Christian Academy of Louisville in Kentucky may be miniature, but there’s nothing small about what students learned while building them this past fall.

Sixth grade science teacher Nikki Votaw ramps up physics with student-built miniature golf courses.
—Photograph by Stuart Bowman

Seeking a way to teach Newtonian physics that would allow her 6th graders “to really experience it and see how it could apply to everyday life,” science teacher Nikki Votaw decided to have the students construct two collapsible, 18- hole miniature golf courses that could be set up in the school gym. After dividing the kids into groups of three and four, she announced the rules: Each group would design and build one hole for their course. Holes would have smooth surfaces and not exceed a maximum dimension of 3 meters by 2 meters. Each would contain two simple machines, such as pulleys, levers, or ramps, and have walls that act as bumpers for the golf balls. And, perhaps most challenging, the students would have to explain how one or more of Newton’s three laws of motion apply to their designs.

Eleven-year-old Jason Landis and his group constructed a ramp by wrapping carpeting around a plank of wood and then balancing the plank at an angle. The ramp was steep, but players could still send their balls up the incline with a sufficient nudge. Several months after the project, the student still remembers why. “According to Newton’s third law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he explains. The golf ball and the carpet exerted equal forces on one another, keeping the ball in place, but “if someone hit the ball hard enough, it would make it.”

When the courses were complete, they boasted multiple ramps, a windmill, and even a water obstacle (a bowl containing live goldfish). The class assigned each hole a par based on its level of difficulty, created scorecards, and then invited parents and students to play. Although no one found the courses easy, they were a hit. For Votaw, a highlight was hearing her students use words like momentum, inertia, and gravity to describe the principles behind their designs. “As I walked around and listened to the groups talk, I heard them use the terminology, and it was exciting,” she says. “You always want students to feel confident that they understand the terms.”

—Lashell Stratton


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Here's How to Make Science More Relevant for Students of Color
Students get more out of science class, these teachers say, when the lessons are linked to their own lives and communities.
5 min read
Chemistry teacher Nina Hike poses for a portrait in her classroom at George Westinghouse College Prep on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Chicago, IL. Through her curriculum, Hike highlights scientific discoveries by women and people of color, and also teaches students about environmental racism.
Chemistry teacher Nina Hike poses for a portrait in her classroom at George Westinghouse College Prep on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Chicago, IL. Through her curriculum, Hike highlights scientific discoveries by women and people of color, and also teaches students about environmental racism.
Taylor Glascock for Education Week
Science COVID-19 Is a Science Lesson Waiting to Happen
Teachers have more information about the virus now than in March 2020, but barriers remain to focusing on the pandemic in class.
8 min read
Conceptual illustration of sectioned off people studying a Covid-19 Virus
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Jorm Sangsorn/iStock
Science Finding Hope in the Face of Climate Change: Why Some Teachers Focus on Solutions
Learning about climate change can make students feel anxious or hopeless. A solution-focused teaching approach gives them a reason for hope.
11 min read
Conceptual illustration of hand reaching into an atom and picking the planet earth
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Frances Coch/iStock
Science 5 Ways to Teach Climate Change and COVID-19 During Polarized Times
Rampant misinformation and politics have made science teachers' jobs harder. Teachers share five strategies to teach sensitive topics.
9 min read
Linda Rost, a finalist for the 2020 National Teacher of the Year and a high school science teacher, teaches at Baker High School in Baker, Mont. on Nov. 3, 2021.
Linda Rost teaches a science class at Baker High School in Baker, Mont., earlier this month. She has received some pushback for teaching about COVID-19.
Leslie Bohle for Education Week