Ask anyone about their experience in a high school physics class and most likely, it will be a disappointing story. What if we could create classrooms where memorable and meaningful experiences are created? It would involve engaging activities and projects that students actually care about.
My classroom is heterogeneity at its extreme.
Eighty percent of the students at our school are English Language Learners (ELL). At least fifteen percent of them have never been to school or have had interrupted formal education. Average time in the US of our ELLs is three and a half years years. A substantial number of students suffer from behavior and emotional problems, as well as the stresses that accompany the process of becoming acclimated to a new place and culture. Ninety-seven percent of our population qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Our school serves grades seven through twelve. One illustration of the challenges we face in trying to educate such a diverse group of students, can be seen in a recent unit about conservation of energy using the context of roller coasters. About sixty percent of the students had no prior knowledge of roller coasters and had never been to an amusement park.
This year, my students will be studying the physics of motion in the context of driving. We will build models of cars powered by variety of energy sources and compare the distance, speed and acceleration of the cars. This unit will allow students to experience fundamental physics concepts in a hands-on and fun way, rather than fill out worksheets and learn vocabulary with no context to build on. This unit will also introduce future drivers to the physics of driving with motion detectors, photogate sensors and force sensors.
Students benefit from educational experiences that allow them to experience and interact with the language they are trying to learn.
"See the Motion" unit would create interest and motivation in science and engineering, as well as help students, visualize abstract physics concepts.
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