In the Spring of 2007 I took a course called “Paul Revere: Tough as Nails” (Materials Science course plus History of Technology course), and the final project my team and I chose was to design lesson plans for teaching non-Newtonian fluid dynamics and significance to elementary, high school, and college students. This post outlines the project goals, while others go into details for the actual lesson plans drafted for the project.
Oobleck, a batter made of cornstarch and water, is both an interesting toy and important case study. It’s simple to make, clean up and enjoy, making it a classroom favorite for young children for decades. It exhibits entertaining and unique behavior – it hardens when you squeeze it, and then oozes between your fingers like something possessed. The same behavior that delights kindergarteners puzzles physicists who use complex principles of fluid dynamics and rheology to attempt to understand its behavior. Oobleck is a material to teach with: both our youngest and our smartest have something to learn from it.
We propose three different lesson plans, appropriate for elementary, high school and college-level students. Each uses Oobleck as a example to understand fundamental material science concepts. Collectively, they cover in depth the nature of Oobleck and other non-Newtonian fluids. Additionally, each section looks to focus on both materials science and historical elements whenever possible. The hope is that this demonstrates an interdisciplinary presentation of Non-Newtonian Fluids, which connects to the same way this Materials Science/ History of Technology course was laid out.