For the Love of Physics
Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
by Katie Beck
Whether it is the end of the semester or the end of the year, time seems to sneak up on us and we are always asking our students to review for something. While is it easy to pull out a list of review problems for students to do, it doesn’t always mean that they understand the concepts that were taught; just that they can follow a set of procedures to get an answer. Please don’t misunderstand; there may be merit in students being able to answer a set of questions, to know the correct equation to use or to sludge through calculations. However, do they always understand why they are using that equation, or what their answers mean and how they fit into the bigger picture?
To help students reach these bigger goals, one review assignment that I always enjoy giving students shows their understanding of physics concepts while allowing them to be creative and express themselves as well. I am lucky that Valentine’s Day seems to fall right round the time that we end our first semester. I like to ask my students to reflect over the concepts that we learned and to express their understanding in the form of a love poem. While a lot of groans and “Are you kidding me?” comments usually accompany this review assignment, the students always get a kick out of it in the end. And I must admit that, I probably get the biggest chuckle out of us all.
For the assignment, I ask the students to cover seven concepts within the poem and that the concepts make sense in terms of both the physics and how it relates to everyday life. They are allowed to write their poem in any form they choose so long as they cover seven concepts. We take one day to go over some of the basic forms of poetry (a nice way to collaborate with the English teachers) and examples from previous years are given to them. Not all of the concepts are always included in one poem; some choose to write a couple of different poems. One of my students chose to write seven different haikus. His haiku on potential energy follows:
The Rock by Kevin Nguyen
Lying on the ground
No potential energy
Just like my love life
While this poem seems rather simple in the physics that it covers, I feel that he was rather expressive with his understanding of how it relates to his love life. I believe it takes true creativity and physics understanding in order to compare your love life, or lack of one as he believes, to a rock.
Others choose to include all seven within one poem. In the stanzas below, the student describes the universal law of gravity (first stanza) and perfectly inelastic collisions (second stanza.)
Part of the poem The Hypothesis by Tyler Tran
Even if we were both planets put at the edges of space,
We would somehow attract and find each other’s embrace.
Even at greater distances, our attraction will stay strong.
We will move closer and closer, until our love is undefined, and our distance is gone.
However, I hope that collision will not be elastic.
Because no real change will occur, our love will remain static.
To me, a perfectly inelastic one would be better
Although some energy is lost, we would end up together.
I particularly like this student’s expression of the universal law of gravity. In the last line, he is able to express the concept of the distance between objects in creative terms for the poem, but also relates to a mathematical understanding of the equation as well.
When two bodies are in the same space their distance would be zero, and according to the equation for the universal law of gravity dividing any number by zero is an undefined number. I was also impressed with how he related that energy is lost in a perfectly inelastic collision in the last line of the second stanza and how he would rather lose energy in the perfectly inelastic collision as opposed to conservation of kinetic energy in an elastic one.
It is easy for us as physics teachers to forget that the students we teach everyday are creative beings. We are quick to be analytical and logical and expect that are students doing the same. Nevertheless, if we are able to take a step back and allow some creativity into our classrooms, it is amazing how our students can express their understanding of physics and hopefully a little more “love” for the subject.
Katie Beck teaches 11-12 grade math and physics at Bolsa Grande High School and is a member of CSTA.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…