It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Newtonmas

Monday, December 24th, 2007

It’s beginning to look a lot like Newtonmas:

With the profusion of Christmas-related decorations, sales, and music, I thought it would be nice to offer a different kind of holiday suggestion, either instead of (if you don’t celebrate Christmas) or in addition to (if you do) the coming holiday.

Sir Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642 (old style), so it seems natural to take advantage of that complete coincidence and celebrate his life and works as Newtonmas. This idea was first introduced to me by my high school Physics teacher, who said that, since we were in a public school and thus couldn’t celebrate any religious holidays, we would celebrate Isaac Newton’s birthday by singing physics carols (similar to these), and doing some fun experiments. It was long enough ago that I don’t remember everything we did, but I recall figuring out what the effect of flushing the toilets in the bathroom above the classroom was on the water pressure in the classroom sink, figuring out how long it would take a Slinky to make it down a set of the school stairs, and—my favorite—watching a Road Runner cartoon to make note of everything that happened that defied the laws of physics.

So it’s my suggestion to seize the opportunity to teach your kids some basics of physics. If you have older kids, you could try teaching them the basics of calculus, too. Of all the sciences, I’ve always thought that physics was the easiest one to teach in a fun way (did you ever do the monkey in a tree lesson?), mostly because you’re not generally working with volatile substances or dead animals, so safety is less problematic.

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