Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Archive for May 2009

fresh-appleI’m almost never out sick.  This is a good thing because my emergency lesson plans are, well, they kind of suck.  It’s motivation to come to work.  The few times I’m out, I either have the sub put on Mythbusters, or I email in a lesson based on our current work.

I would really like to have some better, stand alone emergency plans, but all I’ve come up with is Einstein’s Puzzle.  It’s a logic puzzle that takes quite a bit of thinking and time to solve.  I give extra credit for getting it right  (Einstein puzzle).  Just guessing isn’t enough, they have to show that they did the work or they don’t get the extra credit.

I need something else.  Maybe I’ll design some review worksheets of conversions or scientific notation, or maybe an SAT II section on Physics.  I’m going into my 4th year teaching these courses and that’s the best I’ve been able to do.

I need help.  Or an intervention.  What do you do?

Just a quick poll to help me understand who is stopping by my blog.

This is so cool, thanks for participating.

Carbonless Lab NotebookI received an email from a rep from Bedford, Freeman, & Worth Publishing ( with their latest textbooks and a lab notebook that has carbonless copies.  I was intrigued since I’ve not been happy with my use of notebooks (see my post on Pulley Lab).  I really like the idea of the students using lab notebooks, and I do more than enough experiments to make it worth keeping one, but carrying 100 of them home to grade … it just doesn’t happen.

To make my life easier, I’ve created a bunch of mini-labs where they get a handout, answer questions and hand it in by the next day.  This has worked well from a grading point of view, but the students haven’t had to keep a lab notebook anymore, and so I’ve lost the college-level work I’m aiming for.

I think these carbonless copy notebooks may be the answer.  We are going to try them next year.  The students will be required to purchase them at the school store.  They are not inexpensive, the cost to the school is between $9 and $11 each.

Anyone using these?

You can find the link for the publisher here:

I’ve been listening to Carl Sagan’s A Demon Haunted World on tape in the car and I’m awash with new ideas.

Next year, as part of the introduction to the scientific method, I need to draw a line on the board.  On the left, I will write “Gullible,” on the right, “Skeptical.”  If someone is totally gullible, they would believe that a cat matures into a dog.  It seems silly, but the idea is that a totally gullible person takes any statement as fact without question.  For a totally skeptical person, they would doubt you on absolutely everything you say and do.  The total skeptic is so annoying that nobody wants to converse with him.  Both extremes are no good, our job is to find a happy spot somewhere to the right.

zener cardsNext, let’s talk about ESP.  Is it real?  Do you know anyone with ESP?  If we were gullible, how would we answer to the claims of a person with ESP?  What if we were skeptical?  Let’s accept the claim that ESP might exist.  How can we test it?

At this point, I want to break the students into groups.  Their job is to come up with an experiment to test some form of ESP.  They will need to write up their proposed experiment and then perform it the next day in class.  They will then write up their results and submit their report to peer review by their classmates.

Wouldn’t it be cool if they could decide good experiments from bad through the process of peer review.  I can’t wait to try this in September.

What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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May 2009
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