Here’s a typical scene: a few minutes before 8:00 am, about 60-100 sleepy-looking college students are taking their seats in a large lecture hall – chatting, laughing, calling out to each other across the aisles. Class begins with a big “shhh” from the professor. This is a physics class and the topic at hand is mechanics. For the next hour and 15 minutes, the instructor will lecture and the students will take notes. By the end of class, the three large blackboards at the front of the room will be covered with equations and formulas.

Students in this class (including you) say that the instructor is one of the best lecturers in the department. At last, you take the final exam, get almost every question right, and take home a well-deserved A.  Three months later, you can hardly remember what the class was all about. What’s going on? Why did you forget so much? Are you the only one? Should you have memorized more and worked even harder?

The answer is no. A student who memorizes the entire physics curriculum is no more a physicist than one who memorizes the dictionary is a writer. Studying mechanics is about building skills, specifically the skills of modeling novel situations and solving difficult problems. The results in your textbook are just the raw material. You’re a builder. Don’t spend all your time collecting more materials. Collect a few, then build things.

Real education takes place outside the classroom. No matter how hard you try by mugging up things, you will never be good in mechanics if you don’t try to experience its concepts in real life. It is related more to “common sense” and intuitive reasoning. Going outside can add a sense of occasion to learning and make a lesson memorable.

What is Mechanics?

Mechanics is an area of science concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment. It is a branch of physics that deals with particles that are either at rest or moving with velocities significantly less than the speed of light. It can also be defined as a branch of science that deals with the motion of and forces on objects. Mechanics has two categories—“classical mechanics” and “quantum celestial mechanics.”

Mechanics deals with kinematics and dynamics. Classical mechanics is the foundation for all branches and based on the most basic concepts. Every day, we see that objects are at rest and moving after a while and then come to rest eventually. Inertia keeps bodies at rest, and external forces move them. These phenomena happen around us daily and all you need to do is observe. We can walk because of friction; cars can be stopped via brakes due to friction. We can move faster on skates due to rolling friction. A body thrown upwards on earth will fall back because of gravity.

Why Mechanics Cannot Be Learned in a Classroom

Applying concepts to celestial bodies will help us to learn celestial mechanics. We deal with fluids every day and observing them will help us to learn fluid mechanics and its concepts like surface tension (we all have filled balloons), Archimedes’ Principle, Pascal’s Law, etc. Books and study materials can just make you learn the formulas, derivations, diagrams. But it’s difficult to understand concepts within the confines of four walls. If you go outside the classroom and observe, mechanics will fascinate you and become your favorite topic for sure.

Teaching and learning can become inherently spontaneous and student-centered when moved from the confines of the classroom into the world at large. From the collaborative learning atmosphere that results from the unique relationships developed outside the classroom to the deep learning that occurs when students must put into practice “in the real world” what they have theorized about from behind a desk, field experiences are unmatched in their learning potential.  Learning experiences outside the classroom are inherently interdisciplinary.  When we go out into the world, we encounter it as a whole and are forced to engage multiple modalities, no matter which pair of disciplinary “lenses” we intended to wear.

Of course, there is always going to be a need for some classroom-based learning. Most importantly, true mechanics can only be learned in practice. There is no substitute for experimentation, trial and error, seat-of-your-pants decision making and engaging in a real-life activity.

So, mechanics is a subject best learned through the experiences in the real world. Read more about it here!

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