Integrating Highschool Sciences

Irene Duke, Kate Hoff, Lyndsay Carlisle and myself are participating in the MIT course 11.124, _Introduction to Teaching and Learning Science and Mathematics_. We have a variety of teaching interests: Irene hopes to teach chemistry, Kate to teach Physics, myself Physics or Mathematics and Lyndsay hopes to teach social justice / political history. Provided Make magazines as inspiration, we were tasked to design a joint activity, merging four high school classes of these topics for a period of weeks or months. We developed the ideas described in this first entry over the course of a class period. Hopefully, we'll take the time to expand each step into an instructable, possibly including trials by fire teaching 8th-11th graders. The material is structured by conservation of energy and resources, inspired by the articles of Tim Andersen. The final demonstration we envision motivates the particular material we wanted from each field. A bicycle wheel is drives an alternator transforming mechanical energy into electrical. The electrical energy is used to run a electrolysis process, rendering separate measurable quantities of Hydrogen and Oxygen. The Hydrogen and Oxygen are then combusted for the students. The amount of mechanical energy can be measured, as can the electrical. The binding energy of H_2O can be used to determine the chemical potential energy rendered. Finally, the combustion both demonstrates the energy's new form, and the difficulties in storing energy. The difference between power and energy underlies all of these experiments. Conservation of linear momentumn should be a familiar topic with the students. Conservation of angular momentumn can easily be introduced at this point, demonstrated with the bicycle and a fly wheel. Chaning the orientation of the wheel can be exteremely difficult. For the chemical portion of the experiment, stoicheometry should be familiar to establish the link between the amount of gas generated and the energy invested. The most appropriate mathemetical tools are statistical. Sampling, linear regression and averaging would prove useful throughout the experiments. Global economic relationships leading up from the colonial period would perhaps be the most applicable topic form history or the social sciences. Though not a technical detail, an important aspect of executing such an idea involves the actual deployment of resources. Students could, for example be broken up by their topic of interest, whether it be the physical, chemical or social aspects of the project. Next, new groups would be formed with one or two members from each subject area. These groups could then attempt to execute the design from the first slide, or one which is similar. Throughout, the students will present their thoughts or understanding to the teacher. This design project should perhaps be phrased as simply turning mechanical energy into hydrogen. Students with social scientific background might be responsible for estimating the costs of the implementation in different settings, and that would be used to drive a larger scale version. So, before getting started on building and documenting this project, do people have suggestions? What worked to combine the physical sciences for you? What might have worked?

sort by: active | newest | oldest
westfw10 years ago
I remember a vaguely wonderful time (relatively speaking) when my math classes, physics classes, Chemistry classes, and EE classes were all teaching/explaining/using the same Math. But that was going into college a semester ahead in math (thanks to AP math); I suspect people on the more traditional track may have been a bit ... stressed. Likewise, taking the non-calculus AP physics (turned out to be worthless but fun) while also taking calculus AP math in high school was a lot of fun...

I think schools could do a lot better integrating algebra and high-school level sciences. I mean, you're sorta expected to know algebra for most of the more advanced physical sciences, but I don't recall it being pointed out that "hey, this is the stuff you learned in algebra (or trig.)" Perhaps it wasn't needed in the classes I was in.
trebuchet0310 years ago
A friend of mine did his thesis on alternate methods of teaching classical physics to students. And thus the "Physics in the movies" course was born. I personally haven't taken the course, but I've been told it's been successful - a much lower washout/fail rate compared to the traditional courses.

An example would include watching a portion of the Spider Man move -- swinging on a tiny (read: massless) thread. KE, PE, Pendulum motion etc. etc. with a quasi real world example.

The course, if I recall, is targeted to those that do not need to take calculus - So this is non calculus physics class.

The key, in my opinion, is to use less projects - but make the projects themselves meaningful and entertaining. My PhysicsI course was a SCALE-UP experiment. Every class involved some sort of small boring project. It was fun for the first two weeks - and then it was back to the normal grind.
Goodhart10 years ago
I came across the [http://Leave girls alone 'till you're at an adult age 18/20+ (but then you might be already.) Null Physics site <link>] and a lot of things seemed to click from them on.
Patrik Goodhart10 years ago
Goodhart - I gotta know... This is the second time I see you refer to "Null Physics", and both times with a link that didn't actually work. Are you just having trouble entering links, or are you just playing a joke on us?

I hadn't heard of this website / book before, but the reviews over on the James Randi forum place it pretty squarely in the "crackpot" category...
Goodhart Patrik10 years ago
Ooops....seems as though I made another mistake, I meant that as a reply and it somehow got attached to my initial post (I think a Big Bang is about to happen inside my must be these headaches....sorry again.
Goodhart Goodhart10 years ago
*sigh* I see what I did here (forgot to include the actual URL before hitting ADD), sorry about that.

Let me put it this way, and try the link with a quote from the book: "The conservation of energy is the cornerstone of modern physics, yet is blatantly violated by
a universal origin from nothing - ex nihilo...Speculation about exceptions to fundamental physical laws is entertaining, but the universe exists now, there is a reason why this is the case, and no violation of energy conservation has ever been observed. Although physicists have only documented a small part of the universe, they have measured it carefully."

I am not sure who would take exception to this really. Anyway, I am not promoting the book and especially not everything it says, but I was made to think about things by books like this.

Another one I like in another genre is (although this may get me in trouble again) Mental Floss

I read my last post and have no idea what I was talking about with it....maybe I was half asleep....again, my apologies...
VIRON10 years ago
What worked for me is raising my hand and asking lots of questions. It didn't work for some teachers that labeled me a problem, though. Um ... what was your question? Combining social politics with physics and chemistry? Will this be on the test? How many Watts are in a Vote? Are Hydrogen Engines Politically Powered? Isn't electrolysis for the social problem of having too much hair? Can't this machine save the school budget a ton of money by inflating footballs and conveying them across a field? Imagine Integrated Language. Omnibus c'est babel! Comprendes?