Today, the students are off and we have an institute day. I was thrilled when I saw that the morning agenda included teachers sharing their instructional best practices with other teachers. Teachers could choose two of four sessions to attend. I quickly agreed to share peer instruction with my colleagues. A large part of my session was derived from Stephanie Chasteen’s materials from the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado. (Also, thanks to those of you who help me out yesterday on Twitter!)
Today we did the Simple Harmonic Motion Mathematic Computation lab from the Advanced Physics with Vernier: Mechanics lab manual. Students use a motion sensor to create a position vs. time graph, apply a sinusoidal curve fit, and then determine the relationship between the four coefficients of the equation and how to physically change the oscillator to affect those coefficients. It works really well and helps students better understand amplitude, offset, frequency, and phase. While motion detector baskets are sold from science suppliers, I found it cheaper to buy wire mesh bins for the local office supply company.
Last spring, I took eight of my computer science students to a Java competition. They had a good time and wanted to do more. I also had several students who were sophomores and juniors and wanted to do more programming even though there weren’t any additional classes. So, this fall, we founded a programming team. Earlier this fall, we entered the Zero Robotics competition, and our team is currently in the alliance competition phase. We also registered for the American Computer Science League and will participate in our first contest next week. Today, after school, I led them in a short tutorial of ACSL Assembly Language in preparation for the competition. They also just like to hang out in the lab after school.
Last year, I figured out how to construct a horizontal simple harmonic oscillator. It is a typical glider on an air track with two dynamics cart springs attached from the ends of the glider to the ends of the track. It works really well and provides a great lab activity as students begin to explore simple harmonic motion.
We restructured Honors Physics significantly this year. In previous years, reassessments were overwhelming at times. There were occasions where sixty students who show up after school for reassessments. This year, with our adjustments to the grading scale and standards-based grading, we have much more reasonable numbers. The students who should be reassessing are for the most part and those that don’t really need to aren’t. Yesterday afternoon had a typical turnout:
Today students calculated their predicted horizontal displacement based on the launch location they were assigned and taped their target to the floor (or desk, depending on location). Most groups’ predictions were not accurate. I haven’t reviewed each group’s analysis, but I know that one group suffered due to inaccurate data collected yesterday and another group had accurate data but analyzed it incorrectly. Next year, I may have groups use the short-range setting rather than the medium-range setting to reduce the velocity of the projectile and make the lab a bit easier. One group had solid data from multiple techniques, analyzed it multiple ways, determined which led to the most accurate initial velocity, and based their prediction upon that. They did fantastic:
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In preparation for tomorrow’s lab practicum, students designed their own experiments today to measure the velocity of the projectile fired from the launcher. Yesterday, when I introduced the lab practicum, I explained that they would have to predict where to place the target on the floor such that the projectile would hit it. The placement of the launcher wouldn’t be known until the day of the lab practicum. What they chose to measure today and how they chose to measure it was up to them. However, I encouraged them to consider measurement uncertainty and measure the velocity in at least two different ways. A couple of groups decided to use the pulse-timing mode in LoggerPro and two photogates.
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