February 05, 2013

"time flies" when we're having fun!

Most children these days have no concept of what time is, how to manage it, or even how to "read" an analog clock. I know what they are thinking, "Why do we even need to know this stuff!?" So, rather than just giving my students a number of worksheets with a thousand clock faces on them to complete; I wondered, how I could bring the concept of measuring time to life?

When I thought about analog clocks, the following person came to mind:

Do you remember Flavor Flav? Not exactly the best role-model, but surely a funny guy. So I dressed up with my sunglasses, crown (that I always have on hand), microphone, and a big blue analog clock that I hung around my nect with a long rope / chain. I got into character and I think I had their attention. I showed them some images of Flavor Flav to prove that I wasn't just a crazy teacher telling untrue stories. Although they may think this anyways.

Then I asked them about other "images" that come to mind when thinking about clocks and time. There were many comments: hour glasses, sundials, watches, pocket-watches, alarm clocks, etc... Then I asked them, "What do you think is one of the most famous clocks in the world?"

So, what image came to your mind when I asked you that?

Big Ben! I gave them a little history on the world's most famous clock tower.

Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock in London, and often extended to refer to the clock and the clock tower officially named the Elizabeth Tower, as well. Elizabeth Tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is the third-tallest free-standing clock tower. The tower was completed in 1858 and has become one of the most prominent symbols of both London and England.

Suddenly learning about clock faces and being able to tell time becomes a little more fascinating. (I have so many clock jokes, but I don't have the time to tell you all of them here!)

And another lesson...

How often do we take time to just rest and reflect, even for just one minute? That's what I asked my students to do recently during a lesson on "telling time to the minute". The question I asked myself prior to teaching this lesson, and the series of lessons on time, was: "What does a minute feel like?" The answer is very dependent on what is happening during that minute.

So to begin, I had them sit quietly at their desks without speaking to anyone or doing much of anything for one minute. After the minute had passed I asked them what that minute was like. For most of them it was much longer than they anticipated. But what is the experience of one minute while we are doing other things? I decided to have a little fun with the students and see what is possible in a minute's time.

For the next activity we looked in the textbook that showed a picture of a girl doing push ups. It said, Maria can do 25 push ups in one minute. (That is one very fit and strong girl!) So I challenged my students. "How many can you do? Can you beat Maria?" I had them estimate how many they might be able to do, and then try it out. Well, let's just say we have some work to do fitness-wise.

Immediately following this, I stretched their imaginations a little further to the very extremes of what is humanly possible. I had them try to guess what the Guinness Record is for most push ups in one minute. Then I showed them some information about the Guinness Book of World Record holders for most push ups for one minute:

File:DOUG PRUDEN 075.jpg
Doug Pruden, a Canadian, holds many world records in push ups. His many records include; one arm, one arm back of the hand, back of the (two) hands, and fist (knuckles). Doug has done over 10.5 million push ups of various types in his lifetime so far. As of 2007, Doug Pruden holds 10 current world records in push ups. Doug's fitness pursuits have gained him a place in the Record Holders Republic Hall of Fame. He is also a Canadian Vice President within that same records keeping agency.







Doug Pruden's push up national/world records

  • 5557 Fist push ups in 3:02:30 hours on July 9, 2004
  • 114 one arm push ups in one minute in March 2003
  • 546 one arm push ups in 10 minutes on July 30, 2003
  • 1382 one arm push ups in 30 minutes on July 30, 2003
  • 1,777 one arm push ups in 1 hour on November 2004
  • 575 Back of Hand push ups in 15 minutes on April 29, 2005
  • 1045 Back of Hand push ups in 30 minutes on April 29, 2005
  • 1781 Back of Hand push ups in 1 hour on July 8, 2005
  • 677 push ups on one arm on the Back of hand on November 9, 2005
  • 1025 push ups on one arm on the back of hand on November 8, 2008
  • 59 push ups on one arm on the Back of Hand in one minute on March 24, 2007

Additionally I found that:

Record claims up to 199 in one minute have been made. We do, however, not continue to publish these record claims, because it became impossible to judge about the correctness of the exercises at this speed. The last record that was accepted by the Guinness Book of Records was 138, achieved by Roy Berger (Canada) on 28 February 2004 in Ottawa.

So what does this do for students? It inspires them and engages their minds and bodies in a new way. It gives them perspective on something that is otherwise ordinary and boring. In this way I am using the thinking tools of the imagination of "extremes & limits of reality", "change of context", "making associations with heroes" and "the humanization of meaning" to engage the students with our topic of time.

Ironically we were having so much fun that, yes you guessed it, in the end we ran out of time:)