Day 24: Kinetic Theory Activities

I inherited these kinetic theory activities from the physics teacher who retired when I started. I’ve always used them as they require students to look at everyday occurrences from a very different perspective (through the lens of kinetic theory). I think these activities are even more important this year with AP Physics 2 as I infer that the new course emphasizes students mapping reasoning between macroscopic and atomic scales (“connect and relate knowledge across various scales…). As a result, I really emphasized the translation between macroscopic observations, measurements, and properties; and the corresponding atomic properties. Students surprisingly struggled with this shift of scale. For example, students struggled to reconcile that from a macroscopic perspective, a bouncing rubber ball’s kinetic energy is decreases and is transferred to thermal energy and from an atomic perspective the kinetic energy of the atoms in the ball increases. Initially the student started his explanation by stating that the kinetic energy of the atoms in the ball decrease. I occasionally directed the discussion back to considering the computational model of an ideal gas that we have been exploring which appeared to help students span the macroscopic and atomic worlds.

One of the activities is to cup your hands around an inverted flask and observe what occurs (bubbles leave the lower beaker):


[Update: 30sep2014] Here is the activity handout.

Download (PDF, 63KB)

  ##thermo ##labs  

3 thoughts on “Day 24: Kinetic Theory Activities”

  1. Thanks geoff. I’m going to use some of these today to help wrap up temperature and ideal gas laws before moving on to the laws of thermodynamics next week. I decided to also add in “explain why a helium balloon will move toward the front of an accelerating car” along with a video of the phenomenon, a good tie in with our fluids unit.

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