Saturday, November 17, 2012

I am done with Mechanics '12

Let this post serve as my annual notice of being done with Mechanics in Physics 1. California 9-12 Physics Standards in Motion & Forces and Conservation of Energy and Momentum are fully covered. We will cover Heat and Thermodynamics before the end of the semester.

PODH, you say? Here ya go: it happened!

I post this because I agree with Paul Hewitt's assessment that we physics teachers tend to linger in topics such as kinematics far too long. Then run out of time at the end of the year before getting to rainbows and why the sky is blue.

California's 9-12 Physics standards are often regarded as onerous and smothering. Some complain that there's too much stuff to cover in a year.

The "onerous and smothering" perception is due, in part, to the end of the era of The Physics Cowboy. The Physics Cowboy was the teacher who, alone, determined every aspect of the 180-day physics curriculum. Nobody told him what to teach, how to teach it, scope, or sequence. The Physics Cowboy ruled his domain, and it was good.

Standards and Assessment drove a dagger into The Physics Cowboy. An external body decided the content. An outrage!

Too much stuff? Perhaps. But I think it's more, "Too much stuff I don't want to teach and not enough of what I do want to teach." If you say there's too much to cover in a year but opt to teach projectiles (not included in the standards), there's a flaw in your logic.

Me? I create a pace that allows me to cover the standards within the school year. Do I cover the standards by the time of STAR test administration? No. STAR tests run about 6 weeks in advance of the end of the school year. And my pace allows for extensive work to be done in Electric and Magnetic Phenomena, the standard set which persists as a low-performance standout with students up and down the state.

To do all that and get to rainbows and blue skies, I must now leave Mechanics behind. We have three weeks of instruction (and one week of final exams) between Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break. In that time we will cover the standards in Heat and Thermodynamics.

Second semester opens with Intro to Electricity. Then it's Circuits, followed by Magnetism. Then it's Waves, Light, and Wave Optics. Covering the grooviest topics at the end of the year maintains student engagement in spite of pressures toward "Senioritis" and "Sun's Out, Brains Off".

Those physics standards mini-posters can be found here:
Dean's California 9-12 Physics Standards Mini-Posters 

1 comment:

Kurt Zeppetello said...

Interesting. The standards also killed the Chemistry Cowboy as well...