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HEBRON — The students in Cynthia Brown’s integrated chemistry and physics class at Hebron High School conducted an exercise in Newton’s laws of motion recently.

Sir Isacc Newton’s laws of motion, first published in 1687, describe the relationship between a body and the forces acting on it, and its motion in response to those forces.

Brown’s class studied the energy of a pendulum in a lab recently. The goal of the experiment was for students to describe and explain the motion of objects in terms of Newton’s laws and use the concepts of kinetic and potential energy to describe motion.

Brown, in her 21st year at the high school, teaches math and science, and is the department chairwoman.

She set out a piece of white string and a 5-gram metal piece at each lab station for students to work in pairs to create the pendulum. In addition, students had to complete a two-page worksheet about their hypothesis and what they learned through the experiment. There was a short quiz at the end of class.

The students are learning that energy is a property of objects that can be moved from one object to another, and from one type of energy to another. She told students that when things move fast, they have a lot of energy. And when things are put in a position where they definitely will move if released, they have potential energy.

“Look at the energy of the pendulum and how it swings,” she told students.

“It’s kinetic energy that converts to potential energy and back and forth. Also, the lab will direct you to look at the relationship between the string and the mass and which one will get you the most swings within a certain period of time.”

Brown said the real question is which will create the most swings — the length of string or the amount of the mass.

“I want them to understand motion in terms of kinetic and potential energy and understand that energy can be transformed. It can be electrical energy or chemical energy,” she said.

Brown said the great thing about physics is that it’s applicable in the real world. “They’ll get cars one day and experience velocity and acceleration. They will be able to feel the force. That’s what’s so great about physics, it’s pretty much real life,” she said.

Chemistry is a little more abstract for them, Brown said, adding that students will focus on chemistry second semester. Brown also keeps the state standards on the board, so students know exactly what the state requires and what they are learning.

The students appear to love her class and especially the experiments.

Sophomore Sarah Helmick said they don’t just sit in class and use the books, but also get to do hands-on experiments.

Sophomore Dustin Higgins said he wants to be an electrician, and he expects to use some of the theories he’s learning in class in his future career.

Sophomore Isabelle Joseph said she has Brown for two classes, math and science. “She’s really good. She does a lot instead of just giving us stuff online. In math, we’re working on graphs,” Joseph said.

In addition to teaching, Brown coaches the math and science academic teams. She also oversees a video club called the Pheta Club, established 15 years ago where students do shows around the school, some of it similar to a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

“It’s a lot of fun and students really enjoy it. We didn’t have it for a few years, but we’ve re-established it this year,” she said.


Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.