Students watch first live-streamed science lesson

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>7th grade students at the Math and Science Academy watch an educational program streamed live from the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday.<br/>
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Kevin Gifford.<br/>

GREENFIELD — Math and Science Academy teacher Heather Evans turned on the projector screen and dimmed the classroom lights, as 17 seventh-graders waited for their 15-minute visual science lesson to begin.

But instead of a PowerPoint presentation or a replay of an old “Bill Nye the Science Guy” episode, students watched a live-streamed science lecture, taught 3,000 miles away at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Event organizers said the event — titled “What is Sound?” and presented by British television personalities Dallas Campbell and Yan Wong — was the first-ever live science lesson to be streamed online to classrooms all over the world.

As Greenfield students watched — 9 a.m. their time, 2 p.m. London time — Campbell and Wong used visual tools to teach about sound.

They showed how rubbing a wet finger around wine glasses can cause the glass to vibrate, creating a high-pitched noise.

And they used sound to break glass — by emitting a loud sound with high-pitched frequency from a stereo, causing a sheet of glass to vibrate violently, then shatter. They tried unsuccessfully to repeat the feat with a young female’s singer voice, although the wine glass held next to her mouth did shake violently.

To create a visual representation of how invisible sound waves work, one presenter hit a moving punching bag repeatedly. If the bag was hit continually with the same force and motion, its movement would grow larger, they explained.

They also showed a video clip of an historical visual representation of resonance: the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Wind caused the bridge to shake, or resonate, at a frequency that matched the bridge’s desired “natural structural frequency.” The bridge began to move like a wave, increasing this pattern of movement, until ultimately collapsing into the water below.

Throughout the 15-minute lesson, viewers were invited to send questions via Twitter.

The presenters answered two questions including, “Why can’t sound travel through space?”

The answer: “(Sound) needs something to push against” in order to be heard.

Evans thought the lecture was a perfect introduction on sound for her students.

“The goal of the lesson was to enthuse students about an upcoming topic (sound) that we will be studying in physics class,” she said. “The lesson was able to explain some concepts on a much larger scale than we can in the classroom.”

She also appreciated that the lesson was simultaneously experienced by her students and others in classrooms across the world.

Kevin Gifford, 12, liked this as well.

“It was really different. ... Normally, if there’s ever anything like that on the computer, it’s been on for a while,” he said. “Just the thought that there could be thousands or millions of people watching this at once, that’s it actually happening as we see it.”

Chris Shores can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 264

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