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Physics in the news as a vector for classroom engagement

Kelly Meissner, BSc, MSc, BEd
Bluevale Collegiate Institute, WRDSB

Hello! I’m Kelly Meissner and I’m leading a session at the OAPT conference in May on how we can keep students engaged in current science in the news. I wanted to provide a bit of background so we can get right to the goal of compiling a collaborative set of resources during the session.

Now more than ever it has become important for our students to develop a deep understanding of the science in the news that constantly surrounds them. These students will live with the effects of climate change and hopefully make important evidenced-based decisions rather than those based on alternative facts. It is imperative that when our students leave us, they have a strong moral, ethical and scientific compass that supports the betterment of humanity and our precious Earth.

I feel very strongly that science (physics) in the news is an important part of our curricular program and I work hard to invigorate passion for humanity and Earth in my students.

Since I first started teaching in 2004, I have always tried to integrate current science news into my classroom, no matter which class I taught. It first started out as a “Fun Friday Science Fact” whereby I would select some cool piece of evidence-based science and share it in the class. During those first years, these were exciting Fridays. The students looked forward to them, sometimes thrilled with themselves for engaging passionately in whatever topic I presented if only to distract me from the day’s actual lesson! We had a blast learning and sharing together. The students appreciated the opportunity to have open discussion and get their questions answered. However, this changed drastically over time. I’m not really sure why…maybe it’s because my life got more complicated at home. Maybe the students, who now all have access to information at their fingertips via their phone, became more disengaged in discussion as a collective group. For whatever reason, I felt their passion and interest in current physics slipping and this is not a skill set I wanted them to lose.

Over the last few years, I have tried to create different ways to keep students engaged in current news. I have five innovative ideas that I use in my classroom in the form of assignments, and activities. My goal is to share these with my colleagues at OAPT, to compile any other ideas and resources from participants, and to share these resources on a cloud drive. I want everyone to leave the session feeling they got something useful that they can use right away in their classroom.

Bring your ideas, your resources, and I’ll see you there!
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