I had the opportunity to be part of a statewide STEM meeting recently in which one of the presenters discussed a school project on potential and kinetic energy. The lesson involved students building toy cars that were propelled forward by the energy released from a rubber band. The point of all of this was to give students hands on experiences with how potential energy could be stored in a rubber band, and even grow when it is twisted, until the point of action when that potential energy is converted into kinetic energy and the car moves forward.
Now I am certainly not an expert in physics and it is entirely likely that even the details provided above are wrong on a basic scientific level. I actually could have learned quite a bit from that lesson, however, my mind was running wild with connections instead. You see, I live in a state that has been rife with controversy in education for the last several years. Recently, however, that controversy has grown exponentially. Indiana has become one of the focal points of the ed reform debates – and with that comes all of the controversy and political posturing.
Like those toy cars, education sits in the balance. Debates rage across the state on teacher evaluation, school letter grades, common core, and assessments. All the while, the tension builds. With every new controversy surrounding education there is effectively another turn on the rubber band. The potential energy for action builds, but at the same time so does the stress.
For me, the aha moment of this reflection is that the potential energy can be converted to kinetic energy. We can absolutely take the tension that is building around education and do miraculous things! We can create better learning spaces. We can take pride in the profession of teaching and honor the best and brightest. We can make learning applicable and useful. The twists may be uncomfortable, and even painful occasionally, but with that comes the potential for something great. Our educational system is ready for innovation… at some point the energy will be too great to hold back.
Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr 2013