In this study, we report an attempt at children’s physics education through play with spinning tops Toys play an important role for children to intuitively understand physical concepts, e.g. velocity, acceleration, force, etc. Children can notice rules of the real world by playing with toys. Such experiences help children be conscious of conceptual building blocks to describe characteristics of various phenomena and even physical laws governing them. Children learn the setup to play, watch the behavior of toys and study to control them through trial and error. They play to experience the things which they are not conscious of in everyday life. This study provides an experimental lesson to help upper elementary students learn the physical law of precession through play using gyro spinning tops, i.e., gyroscope-like toys. Children can grasp such spinning objects with little hindrance to the rotation, and the tops keep rotating for considerable time enough to watch and feel its reaction. After the play, children are guided to notice precession and are hinted about the existence of a rule governing its direction. Next, they are prompted to play again to find the rule heuristically. Then, a short lecture on the law of precession is given. The lecture contains the concepts of angular momentum and torque (the moment of force), and also how to represent them via arrows. The calculation method of dynamics without a formula is also presented. Finally, children play to check the theory and use it to predict the direction of precession.
Masaru Onoda, Akita University, Japan