Relativity in a Canoe

Posted September 29, 2014

by Lensyl Urbano

The world moves around the canoe.

The world moves around the canoe.

Perhaps not surprisingly, my middle school students have a difficult time wrapping their heads around the idea of multiple frames of reference. We were in a canoe on the Current River and I asked the student paddling in the rear of the boat to look at me and answer the question, “Are we in the canoe moving, or are we steady in one spot and everything around us moving?”

This resulted in some serious cognitive processing. And she still has not gotten back to me with an answer.

Another student, faced with the same question, thought it over overnight and concluded that it was a riddle. He figured the correct answer was that the canoe was moving and the land was still. I asked him to think about it a little more (because he was only half right).

Interestingly enough, I’ll be teaching my Advanced Physics class this block, and the first chapter has a neat little section on coordinate systems. I’m curious to see if the 11th and 12th graders have an easier time with the concept.

The canoe moves.

The canoe moves.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2014. Relativity in a Canoe, Retrieved November 24th, 2017, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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