Today was the first meeting of the district-wide science curriculum team. Over the next several years, we will restructure science education in our district. We are starting 6-12 but will bring in EC-5 in a year or so. We are focused on the Next Generation Science Standards. This first meeting we started to get to know each other and discussed the conceptual shifts, cross-cutting concepts, and science and engineering practices. We have a ton of work ahead of us, but this is a rare opportunity to dramatically affect science education in our district. Personally, I found it very insightful to listen to junior high teachers since I’ve almost never talked to any of them about science education.
Today I missed class to attend the annual AP Science Symposium posted by Hinsdale Central High School. I’ve attended the symposium for several years and always look forward to it. The day is mostly unstructured and provides an opportunity for AP science teachers to discuss topics of interest. This year, we physics teachers focused primarily on the new AP Physics 1/2 courses and a bit about Next Generation Science Standards. Lots of discussion about Modeling Instruction (especially for this crowd). I snapped a photo about why the College Board is revising so many AP science courses and I may share it on Monday when we start discussing NGSS.
Every year I feel that I share something that will help other teachers, and I leave with something new that they have shared with me. That’s the best kind of professional development.
Today was the final of three days featuring computing opportunities at my school. It was somewhat more draining than the other computing teacher and I expected, but it was worth it as we definitely increased the visibility of what students do in the computing classes. We also had a lot of help from existing and former students willing to demo their programs. Today’s theme was computing and games. We had student playing a variety of games: arcade style in Python, multi-level challenge in Scratch, super tic-tac-toe in Java, and networked chess in Java:
Due to availability of the small cafeteria, we opted to host our Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week activities a week early. Yesterday’s activities focused on computing and robotics. Today’s activities highlighted computing and art. We demoed and displayed student programs such as media computation collages and fractal trees. We also had iPads available for students to try the Hour of Code activities.
Students applied the energy transfer model to devise an experiment to determine the spring constant of the spring in the projectile launchers. Every group eventually ended up launching the projectile straight up and equating the spring potential energy to the maximum gravitational potential energy. Groups used different measurement techniques, but capturing the maximum height with cell phones was popular. Some groups used both the yellow projectile and the steel projectile. Surprisingly, they calculated significantly different spring constants for the different projectiles. Clearly, some of our assumptions are not accurate. Fodder for a future discussion!
Students are now solving sophisticated problems by applying the energy transfer model and utilizing LOL diagrams in particular. I’m very pleased with the progression of problems in this unit on how they continue to incorporate more aspects of previous models we’ve studied. This problem is one of the easier ones since energy is not transferred between the system and the environment, but the group did a good job applying various representations to the problem.