Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rio Phyz 2014: Class Portraits

Some with flash; some without. Some with teacher; some without. Some straight; some goofball. The whole set can be accessed via this Flickr Set:

2014 05 Rio Phyz Class Portraits

UPDATE: As per usual, Flickr sent the original album into the æther somehow. I re-uploaded the whole thing. I can't imagine relying on Flickr as a backup of any sort. Photo links often degrade faster than a fine pastry, and albums once loaded can easily disappear for no apparent reason.

Friday, May 30, 2014

ExploratoRio 2014 - The Video

Directed and produced by student videographer, Grant Webster. Laugh, cry, relive the memories!

ExploratoRio 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Outdoor activities for oddball days

A request was made (via our PTSOS discussion group) for outdoor activities that might be fun during weird days that seem to crop up at the end of the school year.

The ever-resourceful Los Gatos physics teacher and PTSOS leader, Dan Burns, suggested the following.

I like stomp rockets. Measure the distance to the launch, the angle it makes at apogee to the horizontal, calculate height. Measure time in air, calculate height and initial velocity.

Make pinhole cameras and use them to determine the diameter of the Sun.

Get in a line and spin in a circle. Each student calculates their angular and linear velocity.

Bang a drum twice per sec, students walk away until they hear the sound at the same time the drum is hit. Measure that distance, divide by 0.5 to get the speed of sound.

Make water balloon launchers out of surgical tubing. Calculate the force constant, the elastic potential stored, predict initial velocity and time in air if launched vertically. Then predict max range.

Have students push a car on a flat surface using bathroom scales. Drop beanbags at regular time intervals. Measure acceleration of car using the force applied and mass, compare to acceleration derived from pattern of beanbag separation.

Perform Herschel's experiment that detected IR radiation using glass prisms and thermometers.

Jump rope generator, rotate loop of wire like a big jumprope that is hooked to a galvanometer. See it generate current using earth's magnetic field. See Conceptual Physics Manual.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

NGSS is a Renaissance, not an Upheaval for Physics Teachers

Your use of the word upheaval is overly sensational. According to Webster's, upheaval means: "a major change or period of change that causes a lot of conflict, confusion, anger, etc.". This characterization would only apply to AP Physics B teachers, a small subset of high school physics teachers (and now a null set!). As for NGSS, I would use something like "freedom", "autonomy", or even "Renaissance". Unlike previous top-down efforts to shackle professionals to a checklist of factoids, this set of standards is more about the process of teaching students how to think and use information to understand the world they live in. There is a large degree of freedom given to teachers to determine how they want to approach achieving the NGSS. NGSS is very similar to the approach outlined in decades-old documents like the Project 2061 "Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy" and the 1991 California Science Framework. It is the pendulum swinging back to a better time in physics teaching. If you rely on your professional judgement as to what constitutes good physics teaching practices, you will not have to worry very much about adapting to NGSS.

Even if you are a teacher that is experiencing "a lot of conflict, confusion, anger, etc." regarding NGSS, I say relax and enjoy the next 2 school years without worrying about preparing your students for state-mandated tests. The earliest these could return would be the 2015/16 school year and the people I work with that are more involved in this process expect them later than that. This is from the FAQ page on NGSS for California:

"When will there be new assessments for the NGSS?
The earliest new science assessments might be available is the 2014–2015 school year. However, due to the short timeline, new science assessments will most likely not be available until the following school year.

Will Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) have science assessments for NGSS?
At this time, new science assessments will likely be developed much like the assessments of SBAC . However, it is still too early to know exactly how and when new science assessments will be administered.

In SSPI Torlakson’s report Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, Recommendation 4 encourages the development of new state science assessments consistent with the newly adopted NGSS for California, that include item types consistent with the SBAC assessments (e.g., short and extended constructed-response items and performance tasks)."

The full list or FAQs can be found here:

I suggest they dig up the old Golden State Exams for Physics and complete this retro cycle!

Dan Burns
Los Gatos High School

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hewitt Fest 2014 at Rio Americano

Conceptual Physics author, Paul Hewitt, was in Sacramento for a day so he could attend Pasco's 50th anniversary. (I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event, which was great fun in celebration of an excellent company with solid corporate values.)

Hewitt, along with his delightful wife Lillian and ever-clever Evan Jones, was kind enough to drop in on my Physics classes today. He regaled the students with tales of the inverse square law, sunballs, college matriculation, and his path to physics.

After the lessons, the lunch time bell rang and my room became Groupie Shot City (or Selfie Central). My post to Facebook was, "An 82 year old textbook author visited my school today. The students mobbed him like he was a rock star."

Here are some images to prove it.

2014 05 Hewitt Fest at Rio Americano

Some readers might recall that Hewitt paid Rio Americano a visit on the last day of school, June, 2011.