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New curriculum teaching students physics via crash tests

Today, students worldwide are getting a crash course in physics from controlled car collisions that create a dramatic instructional part of a new curriculum developed by The JASON Project in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Posted: August 29, 2011 - 4:01PM
Author: Don Bain

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Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's crash tests provide real world relevance to 4th to 10th grade students, learning concepts like velocity, acceleration, and momentum. A team of internationally selected students and teachers from The JASON Project traveled to the IIHS test facility in Ruckersville, Va. to observe crash tests and researchers who are applying the laws of physics to better understand – and mitigate – what happens in collisions.

Matt Brumbelow, senior research engineer at IIHS, and others worked with the JASON students and teachers to develop the science unit. Brumbelow and the others who participated in the research are featured in the instructional curriculum, titled Terminal Velocity, released worldwide in August.

"The most exciting part for me was the roof crush test, where a huge pressure source pushed on the corner of a gleaming new sedan until the car crumpled," said Aubrey Gonzalez, a high school junior from Harvest, Ala. "You could hear a crackling sound like little explosions, and then the back window blew out and the side windows ruptured, spraying glass everywhere. It was awe-inspiring and frightening to see something so strong crumple like that."

Named for the legendary Greek explorer and Argonaut, the Jason Project may be the only program linking students directly to scientists engaged in cutting-edge research. The rigorous, standards-based classroom curricula are developed in collaboration with IIHS as well as the National Geographic Society, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, Smithsonian Institute and others.

"The JASON Project brings science alive for young people," said Adrian Lund ,IIHS president. "We wanted to be a part of the program because of its fundamental goal of demonstrating how scientific principles can be applied to real-world problems like motor vehicle crashes to make a difference and save lives."

"JASON's success is achieved through partnerships, and we are grateful to IIHS for helping us make physics engaging, meaningful, and accessible for millions of students," added Dr. Stephen M. Coan, CEO of The JASON Project. "The focus on driver safety only heightens the importance of this curriculum and we look forward to continuing our work with IIHS in the months and years ahead."

JASON's nationally acclaimed curricula features year-round interactions with scientists; online simulations, games, videos and social media; plus hands-on laboratory and field assignments. Its Immersion Learning component creates correlating after-school academic enrichment programs, mentoring and summer science camps along with Boys & Girls Clubs, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Air Force, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, plus museums and aquariums throughout the world.

JASON and Immersion combined reach over 1.5 million students and teachers annually, not to mention general audiences exceeding six million. Independent evaluations have shown the programs significantly impact student academic achievement and teacher effectiveness.

About The JASON Project
The JASON Project is an independent 501(c)(3) managed by National Geographic Society in association with Sea Research Foundation, Inc. More than 11 million students and teachers have participated in the program since its founding in 1989 by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, the renowned oceanographer, explorer and scientist. JASON is based at The George Washington University Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Va.

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Dr. Sanford Aranoff (not verified)    August 30, 2011 - 8:31AM

I do hope they stress principles of physics, and not just results. See Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better.