July 2014 – Vol. 26 No. 11

A Photo Finish for the School Year

Posted: Friday, June 1st, 2012

by Laura Henriques and Katie Beck

CSTs and AP exams are over.  Students and teachers can all breathe a sigh of relief. With those pressures off, many teachers have a little more time for multi-day projects and experiments which all-too-often get squeezed out of the curriculum in our rush to make it to exam day. Many high school physics teachers have end-of-year projects which require students to be creative, have fun and apply concepts. Some of the more popular projects shared at a recent gathering of high school physics teachers included cardboard boat building, two liter bottle rockets, mousetrap cars, Rube Goldberg contraptions and catapults. There are variations to all of these activities but to be educationally valuable, students need to be able to explain the physics behind the project.

Surface Tension by Anna Christiansen Cable

The physics picture project described here is one that has been used in high school and university physics classes, but it could easily be used in other content areas. Adapted from the American Association of Physics Teachers Photo Contest, this project requires students to take a group of pictures to illustrate physics concepts. Virtually everyone has access to a digital camera these days (camera phones work fine for this assignment), so access to technology has not been a barrier, even in lower SES schools. Details on the project are provided below, but the goal of the assignment is to get students to photograph and explain how physics is seen in the natural (or posed!) world. Students need to explain the physics behind each picture and each of their pictures must demonstrate a different physical phenomenon. For example, they cannot provide pictures of a child on a slide and a child on a swing-set and explain both with conservation of energy principles.

Students have been excited about the project and the work they submit is really quite good. Pictures and their explanations must fit on a single page. Many of these are framed and posted in the classroom. Alumni love coming back and seeing their photos.  Current students are intrigued by the pictures and they read about the physics phenomena all year long. We have used this assignment as part of the final exam grade. It really is a culminating exercise, requiring students to retrieve and apply physics concepts from across the school year. It could easily be used throughout the school year as a portion of unit, quarter or semester grades. The goal is to require students to see and explain physics concepts at work in the real world. Group sizes can vary. We have had students work individually or in groups of 2-5. At the high school level groups have been used almost exclusively.

Assignment details: Take 10 (or some set number) of pictures which illustrate physics concepts. Your picture set must have a theme. For example, children at play (swing sets, slides, playing with slinkies) or a day at the beach (waves, rafts floating on the water, polarized sunglasses). Each picture must show a different physics concept and the physics concept highlighted in the photo must be explained in writing.

Variations on the assignment have included the teacher randomly selecting concepts or the instructor providing images which the students must describe. Our favorite version, though, is requiring teams to come up with a theme for their photo set and take their own pictures. It has been fun to see how clever and creative they are.

Purple Rain by Jason Daniel Connell, demonstrating vector motion.

We have found that doing a few sample pictures in class has been helpful. We show a picture and ask students to describe the physics behind it. Typically the class comes up with more than one physics concept that the image illustrates. For example, the kid on a swing-set mentioned above as an example of conservation of energy could also be an example of periodic motion. Instead of talking about the transfer of potential energy to kinetic energy the students could write about the period of the swing and the irrelevance of the mass of the child swinging as length is the only variable that matters. This is especially helpful for kids as they begin thinking about their project and helping them see that the pictures they take could be described using a different physics lens.

Try it out! You don’t have to start with a theme-based photo set of 10 images. Start out small with you providing a couple of pictures and see what they come up with. Then next year expand the project and have the students take the pictures. Another way to get started, and help the kids get comfortable with the idea, is to do photo analysis in class and include a picture or two on tests or quizzes which students must explain. This really helps students see physics as more than just a set of formulas.  Have fun and say cheese!

For more information, click on the links in the article or paste these urls directly into your browser window.

AAPT physics contest:  http://www.aapt.org/programs/contests/photocontest.cfm

Physics teacher gathering: http://www.physicsatthebeach.com

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president-elect of CSTA.

Katie Beck (kbeck@ggusd.us) is a physics teacher at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, CA and a member of CSTA. She has served as the PhysTEC Teacher-In-Residence at CSULB for the 2011-2012 school year.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

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Speak Out for Science – Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Regulations Need Stronger Support for All State Standards

Posted: Monday, July 14th, 2014

CSTA and others are requesting that the State Board of Education change the language used to describe the “Implementation of State Standards (Priority 2)” so that all subjects, including science, are addressed in the LCAP.

On Thursday, July 10, CSTA addressed the California State Board of Education to seek a change to the State Board approved LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) template. This change will serve to clarify for districts and stakeholders that the state’s priority #2 should address all state adopted standards, including science, and not just Common Core. A quick review of the LCAPs submitted for approval by county offices of education reveals that many districts approached addressing priority #2 as only the implementation of English and Mathematics Common Core Standards. Missing or lacking from many plans is support for the recently adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California.    Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Get Ready for December’s NSTA/CSTA Joint Conference!

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


by Laura Henriques

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The official conference is December 4-6, 2014 but there are will be two full-day field trip options on Wednesday, December 3rd. There will be an array of field trips and short courses as part of the conference. The field trip choices include The Science in your Beer: Chemistry, Microbiology, and Sensory Analysis at Smog City Brewing, Up Close & Personal with Ocean Critters: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Slip-Sliding Away: a Palos Verdes Geology Tour, Looking to the Future: Visiting the Endeavour Space Shuttle and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Journey into Space at the City of Downey, Columbia Memorial Space Center, and Wet & Wild Adventures with the Southern CA Marine Institute. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Jessica Sawko

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Assessment

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Learn More…

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

I would like to use this month’s column to publicly thank our outgoing Board Members. Our spring elections bring new faces and talent to the CSTA Board, but that means we also say good-bye to some colleagues.

There are five Board members whose term just expired, four of whom will be leaving the Board. Their last official Board Meeting was June 14th but we look forward to their continued involvement in CSTA. We also appreciate all that they have done for CSTA.

Heather Wygant joined the Board in 2008. She was fresh from Texas, where she’d been active with STAT (Science Teachers Association of Texas). She served two terms as the CSTA High School representative and one term as Treasurer. She brought us ideas from the Lone Star State and enthusiasm for all things science (especially earth science). While she is officially leaving the Board, Heather will stay active with CSTA serving on the NGSS Committee and the Electronic Communications Committee. Jeanine Wulfenstein, middle school science teacher in Temecula Valley Unified School District, is taking over Heather’s position as Treasurer. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

2014/2015 California State Budget Deal Includes Funding for Standards Implementation, Science Assessment, and Science Framework Development

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Marian Murphy-Shaw and Jessica Sawko

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The 2014/2015 California State Budget passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brown includes $400.5 million that the legislature intends for use on Common Core, NGSS, and ELD implementation (including PD for teachers, instructional materials, and technology supports). However, the use of these funds for this purpose is not mandatory. In addition to this funding, $4 million is being allocated for NGSS assessment, $493,000 in one-time Federal Title III funds are appropriated for the purpose of linking English language development (ELD) standards with academic content standards for mathematics and science, and finally $270,000 is appropriated to the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) to review and revise, as necessary, the history-social science framework and develop a revised curriculum framework and evaluation criteria for instructional materials in science based on NGSS. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.