Physics: This school uses the Hewitt book, about which I have many thoughts and feelings, but if them’s the breaks I will make it work. They start with chapter 2, Mechanical Equilibrium, and I’m following the established syllabus precisely, so I did, too. It talks of forces (a push or a pull) and net forces and whatnot. I set up two balances with a meter stick across both of them with a 100g mass in the middle so they each read about 50g. I had the class decide where to move the mass around on the meter stick and had a student read out how the values of the scales changed. Once we’d done that a few times I had them look for patterns. The book calls this the Support Force, so I did, too, and we talked about the net force being zero. Then I gave each group a meter stick, two spring scales, a 1kg or 500g object, and some string and asked them to use these materials to determine if the force from a spring follows the same behavior rules as the support force. Basically, can we use the same physics principles with both push forces and pull forces? Yep. Turns out you can! With this student I had to talk them through how turning the scales upside down affected the measurements, which was a fun conversation. Tomorrow we’ll be talking more about net forces and vectors.
Physics Honors: I gave myself a month. I was 29 days too generous. As of today I threw out what I was given and started making it my own. I just can’t handle it. I told the students that I’d have a syllabus with policies and a new structure ready for them on Monday, so I could have the weekend to plan. They were on board. Today, we talked about CVPM and position-time graphs and what information they give. Their homework is to answer the questions on this website. I specifically told them they could check their answers, but the goal was to do what they could by themselves, figure out why any mistakes happened, and then correct them. We’ll see how that goes, but they were really receptive to the idea.
AP Physics C: The given lab was having students do video analysis of a ball rolling next to a ruler and making graphs with it on spreadsheets. I tossed that out immediately, took them out to the football field, and made them run around (at a constant velocity). They stood every 5 yards and each student took turns starting somewhere different, moving a different direction, and choosing a different type of motion (walking, running, skipping, grape-vine, crab crawl, cart wheels, high-knees, and so on). Each student took time data for their specific position. Back in the classroom I set them to the task of finding a way to bring all of those data points together into one useable data set, and they quickly turned to Google Sheets. Then I had them pair the trials up that could easily and clearly be graphed on similar axes, graph, best fit, find equation, and explain what do the slope and the y-intercept physically mean. I didn’t tell them which variable goes on which axis, so in one class there was a split and in the other class everyone put time on the y-axis. As they started trying to make meaning of the slope and intercept, they quickly realized that it would be better to do it the other way, which was amazing to watch. I tried a Board Meeting, and it went better than I’ve ever had one go before in the first class (10 students). They asked questions and commented on each others’ boards and generally were very engaged and interested in the conversations.
The second class’s Board Meeting did not go as well since everyone had time on the y-axes which changed the discussion and there were three groups instead of five, but was still really interesting and informative. They also finished early, so I took them through the same graphing stuff I did with the honors class and had them working in pairs or threes to analyze the graphs. My school doesn’t have bells, and when we hit end of class I told them they were welcome to stay but class was over, and every group sat for another five or so minutes before finally packing up slowly, still talking about the graphs. It made my little heart ever so happy.
Non-Class-Related: I talked to the school counselor about the student who did not feel that she had any adult who would want to receive a nice note about her, and she is on the case. We’ve got the beginnings of a plan that I will start acting on tomorrow before I see her in the afternoon. Operation: Gentle Support begins.