The students that will benefit from this project are primarily high school juniors, with a few seniors mixed in. All are physics students and the vast majority will be attending college after high school. As upperclassmen, they're all at a point where, for the first time, they're being expected to collect, analyze, and interpret scientific data without a teacher leading them every step of the way. Additionally, while they're all very familiar with smart phones and iPads (we're a 1-to-1 iPad school), they tend to be nearly helpless when presented with other forms of technology.
We are a Title 1 school in a small-town district.
We have an approximately 50:50 split of kids who live in town and those who live in the rural areas surrounding the town. The majority of our students have grown up in this district and, unfortunately, did not receive a particularly strong science education in the early and middle grades, especially when it comes to experimentation and drawing conclusions from data. So it falls to myself (and our other high school science teachers) to make up as much of the gap as possible.
I am a relatively new high school physics teacher, having held this position for 3 years now right out of college. Unfortunately, the teacher I replaced, while wonderful by all accounts, viewed physics more as a series of phenomena, rather than a well-ordered extension of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Because of this, the collection of materials I inherited from him is outdated and not particularly helpful to running a math-based, experiment-driven physics classroom. I can do plenty of wonderful displays but the students can't be particularly hands on.
Over the past 3 years, I have started to piece together the materials needed to teach physics at a level consistent with, and similar to, the intro-level physics my students will see when they enter college in a few years.
This project will allow me to bump that progress forward by 4 or 5 years, based off the limited funding available in my district. The dynamic cart and track system that is the centerpiece of this project will be used in experiments into the topics of speed and acceleration, force and gravity, optics, and many others. The sensors included will be used in conjunction with already-owned technology to replace older, out of date methods.
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