Dec 26, 2011

Happy Holidays, and THANKS to the Physics First listserv!

Happy Holidays! It's been a while since I posted last, and I apologize... I've been busy with some other things, including a nation-wide tour with a rock band that I've played in for a about 10 years now!! Here's a music video I made for one of our songs, in a case you'd like to check it out!! (If you look closely, you'll see a demonstration of blackbody radiation from a light bulb AND a glowing piece of 0.7mm mechanical pencil lead - it's amazing what 6A can do!!) In any case, sorry for the delay... I've got a lot to catch up on, so let's get started!

In the spring of last year, I had an opportunity to sit in on a few classes taught by a teacher who has been a great asset to the movement to popularize Physics First. This teacher maintains the Physics First listserv, an invaluable resource to all of us interested in seeing Physics First gain traction across the country. Many of the teachers I've observed for this blog I've found through the listserv. For as long as I've known about Physics First the listserv has consistently been a great hub of communication for educators and physics education researchers across the country, and even the world.

The school I visited is a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania, on a beautiful campus surrounded by trees and open fields. I spent the better part of the day at the school, and sat in on quite a few different physics classes, as well as the school's weekly Quaker meeting. This teacher's teaching style was relaxed and comfortable, and students clearly felt at ease. They were studying wave motion, and after a few minutes of lecture on the topic, the entire class headed outdoors to measure the speed of wave pulses on large slinkies that the teacher had affixed to trees earlier in the day. When we returned to the room, I polled students (at his suggestion) with a simple prompt, to be answered anonymously: "Name three things that come to your mind when you think of this class." The students were honest, and the responses showed varied levels enthusiasm ("interesting concepts", "learning how things work", "too much math"), but taken together this poll was a nice window into the success of the Physics First program at this school.

In conversations with this teacher during my visit, I learned that last year was his final year of teaching. He had been at the school for decades, and has seen the Physics First program grow from its initial implementation in 1999. In my brief time at the school, I saw this teacher offer his time and experience to teachers and students time and time again - even giving up his free periods to help another teacher run the same waves on slinkies lab he had prepared earlier for his own class. This teacher had a presence at the school that will be sorely missed, and his ongoing contributions to the Physics First community are much appreciated.

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