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Perimeter Workshop: Black Holes

Host: James Ball
Wednesday January 20th 2016
Room 209 John F. Ross C.V.I. 21 Meyer Drive Guelph, Ontario N1E 4H1
4:00 – 6:00

Come and check out Perimeter's latest resource of black holes. There will be activities that are suitable for the grade 9 universe unit as well as both the grade 11 and 12 physics courses. Please R.S.V.P. to James Ball (james.ball@ugdsb.on.ca) if you are planning on attending.

Particle Physics Crossword

The holidays are a time to relax with friends and family. In the spirit of holiday fun, the OAPT brings you a physics-themed crossword puzzle, filled with cryptic clues and bad puns. Read More...

Animating Graphs to Animate Discussions about Electrical Energy

Roberta Tevlin, Teacher at Danforth CTI

One of the biggest problems facing the world right now is how to generate the electricity that we want without destroying the environment. This is a very complicated problem and we are supposed to help our students understand this issue in all four grades in high school: grade 9 Science (Electricity), grade 10 Science (Climate Change), grade 11 Physics (Energy and Society) and grade 12C Physics (Energy Transformations). This summer I found a great tool to help with this. Read More...

DDSB STEM Talk in the New Year!

Wednesday January 20, 2016; 7:00 – 8:00
Room 1011, Durham District School Board (400 Taunton Road East. Whitby)
Presented by Jen Rowsell and Sarah Langer

The Biology of Camel Spiders and Arachnid Fieldwork Adventures

Forensic Entomology: HowInsects Can Help Solve Crimes

Four Cheers for the Holistic Demo

Gavin Kanowitz, Teacher at AY Jackson SS

The ‘Demo’ is one of the most powerful tools that physics teachers have. It can hook the students’ interest right away. If you frame the demo with a pre and post dialogue, it can also ignite their learning.

There is no hard and fast rule as to when an educator should perform a demo. I prefer using them as an intro to the topic. Other teachers choose to defer to demos as a means of solidifying a key idea at a later stage of concept development. There is certainly no shortage of demos — a quick glance at the OAPT website will alert you to that, but what is often missing in demo descriptions is the pedagogy that surrounds the show. Read More...

Northern Ontario Teacher Subsidy for the OAPT Conference

We are excited to announce funding support to Northern Ontario Teachers to attend the OAPT conference at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario on May 12-14, 2016!

The Northern Ontario teacher Subsidy will cover the cost of travel, accommodations, registration, and supply coverage! Don’t miss out!

Fill out the form at: http://goo.gl/forms/qnZ8Jc6uoe

The Definition of Northern Ontario can be found here: http://nohfc.ca/en/about-us/northern-ontario-districts

Contact Lisa Lim-Cole for more information: lisa.cole@ddsb.ca

TAPT Postponed: Physics Games — Phun with Physics

The TAPT session Physics Games — Phun with Physics has been postponed until after Christmas. We will make another announcement when the new date is confirmed.

Feel the energy: a unified framework for teaching energy

Chris Meyer, OAPT VP teaching and learning, Assistant curriculum leader York Mills C. I.

A model educator
In science, we create models to help us explain our universe and predict what might happen next. Science is a continuous process of creating, expanding, testing and revising models, which are judged by scientists according to their agreement with observations. As educators, we should choose models that have a reasonable agreement with observations, are conceptually clear, and do not create unnecessary hurdles to future, more sophisticated, models. This task is especially challenging with the topic of energy, a concept that is fundamental to physics and all branches of science. Research into the pedagogy of energy has shown that traditional treatments of energy leave much to be desired. Read More...

Review: Seveneves

Ryan Thompson, OAPT Treasurer, Physics Teacher, Newmarket HS

All physics teachers should read Neal Stephenson. His latest book is called Seveneves, a tale that spans five millennia. Although the book starts off clunky, the premise of it, the explosion of the moon and how this impacts all life on Earth (very badly), drives the story past an awkward beginning to a point where I couldn’t put the book down. I got excited about finding about how humanity would rise above the technological and political challenges it faced to ensure the survival of our species. Read More...

How to use the OAPT Physics Contest

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Physics Teacher Danforth CTI

Recently, a teacher asked me for advice about how to start running the OAPT physics contest. I asked some teachers to help me answer this question. As well as finding great advice for getting students to write the contest, I also learnt about other contests and how teachers were incorporating past OAPT contest questions into their course all year long. Read More...

Undergraduate School on Experimental Quantum Information Processing (USEQIP)

May 30-June 10, 2016

Start the summer with a two-week introduction to the theoretical and experimental study of quantum information processing which includes 30 hours in the labs. You will get the opportunity to interact with students from around world, work with graduate students, postdocs and IQC faculty. This program is fully funded — including your accommodations and food. You can also apply for travel bursaries.

Watch this quick video to get a feel for the full experience.

Undergraduate Research Award - all summer
Join us at IQC for the summer through an Undergraduate Research Award and work with one of our researchers – experimentalist or theorist. Not only will you enhance your research experience and prepare for your graduate studies and research career, but you get the chance to attend IQC seminars, lectures, and student talks. This is a unique opportunity to interact with an interdisciplinary research community.

Apply before January 11!
You can choose to only apply to attend USEQIP, to only apply for an Undergraduate Research Award, or apply for both.

  • If you want to apply to both, click the USEQIP button. Complete the application and check the appropriate box for the Undergraduate Research Award.*
  • If you only want to apply for USEQIP, click the USEQIP button. Complete the application but do NOT check the box for the Undergraduate Research Award.

Using Concept Inventories to Improve Students’ Success

Saara Naudts, OAPT Contest Editor, Physics Teacher North Park SS

The “Common Sense” Problem
Students arrive to your class equipped with prior knowledge, life experiences, and an understanding of how the world works. They have drawn their own conclusions on how observations can be explained; unfortunately, often their common sense is not correct. While teaching a new topic may be difficult, it is far more challenging trying to undo students’ misconceptions and false ideas about the world. According to Hestenes (2006), most often students simply modify their existing understanding to accommodate the new concepts rather than learn the correct knowledge, which leads to smorgasbord of right terminology, in partially accurate theories, and deeply-rooted misconceptions. Read More...

TAPT: Physics Games — Phun with Physics

NOTE: session postponed until after Christmas. Will be reposted when date confirmed.

Tuesday December 8, 2015; snacks 4:00, session 4:30 – 6:00
Staff Room, Agincourt CI (2621 Midland Avenue. Toronto)
Presented by Kathy DeNoble and Robert Prior
Games can be an excellent way to reinforce student learning. In this session, we will play three different games designed for kinematics, and discuss how they fit into the curriculum.

  • KineCards: A card game that builds position-time and velocity-time graphs of an object's motion. Players must play matching D-T and V-T segments while competing to end at different positions.
  • The Amazing Rally: An orienteering game that sends students around the school following a trail of clues. Players must draw and follow a vector diagram while maintaining a schedule, neither too fast nor too slow.
  • Space Battles: A 2D space miniatures game. Players pilot spaceships which use realistic vector acceleration and movement. Advanced options add combat and relative velocity.
Although this TAPT session focuses (naturally) on physics, we will also have non-physics games on display for those of you teaching other science courses.

As usual, we will have snacks and socializing time from 4:00 – 4:30. Please email Robert (robert.prior@tdsb.on.ca) to let him know that you are coming so we can be sure to have enough food. See you there!

FAST Motion Studios - Physics Field Trip

Over the past 18 months the OAPT has been working with Paul Rapovski, CEO of FAST Motion Studios (2 Denison Rd W, Toronto) to develop an experiential field trip for high school physics students. The intent is to reveal the variety of career pathways in the recession-proof business of entertainment production — movies, television and gaming. We successfully tested our model in September with a focus group of physics teachers — including a complement from the OAPT team. This field trip program was revealed at the recent STAO conference and we are extending the offer to our members.

To this end there are three attachments:
  • FAST STEM connection: outlines the rich STEM base of the motion picture, television and gaming industry (general info)

Please feel free to pass these along to colleagues. The first step is to identify potential date(s) for the field trip and connect with me to confirm (dave@fastmotionstudios.com). As well, contact me if you require more information.

Thank you for your time and attention to this unique and exciting initiative.

Upcoming STEM Talk at the Durham District School Board on November 25 at 7:00 pm!

Please share it with educators, students, parents, community members and any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) enthusiasts! It is a free event and all are welcome to attend! Mark your calendar! Hope to see you there!

Durham District School Board
400 Taunton Rd E.
Whitby, ON L1R 2K6
(905) 666-6384
Toll Free: 1-800-339-6913, Ext. 6384
Email: cole_lisa@durham.edu.on.ca

New Statistics Feature for the OAPT Contest

Shawn Brooks, Contest Manager, Teacher at University of Toronto Schools

We have always strived to have a range of question difficulty on our OAPT Grade 11 Physics Contest. We now have a new statistics feature, so that teachers will be able to review how well their students did on each question. When you find that your students had a difficult time with a particular question, you could try dividing your students into groups to discuss:

  • why they agree or disagree with the official answer to the question
  • how they could re-write the question to make it easier to solve
  • why so many students picked the wrong answer

Review: ZipGrade App for iOS and Android

Robert Prior, teacher at Agincourt CI

Are you tired of marking multiple-choice tests? Put away your overlays and highlighters, download ZipGrade to your smartphone, and not only will you save time — you'll also learn more about what your students are really thinking! Read More...

Energy and Motion Connections in a K’Nex™ Catapult

Margaret Scora, Teacher at Monsignor Paul Dwyer CHS

It is very important to have our students engaged in the classroom in order for deep learning to occur. Your students need opportunities to use their creative spark and build on their 21st century learning skills. Peter Benson’s TED talk does a great job of presenting how important this is.

Ideas for projects proliferate but many of these are time-consuming, expensive and beyond the skills of an average student and the tools of an average physics classroom. However, your students can build a catapult with K’Nex™ in just one class with virtually no prep and no trips to the wood shop.

System and Free Body Diagrams

Eric Haller, Physics Teacher, Bond Schools International

When asked to draw a force diagram for some simple situation, most students emerging from any level of introductory physics course are likely to draw objects which look like a porcupine shot by an Indian hunting party—the number and direction of pointed entities being essentially stochastic.

Arnold Arons (1979)

My name is Eric Haller. I’m a new teacher and I am currently at the start of my third year teaching in China. Even though I live so far away, I was able to make it to the physics camp in Sudbury two summers ago. There I got a book called FIVE EASY LESSONS: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching by Randall D. Knight, which I highly recommend. In this book, Knight talks about many different ways we can improve how we teach physics, a few of which I’ve actually tried out with my students. I want to share with you one of the successes I’ve had with those strategies, here is how I teach my students to draw system and free body diagrams.


York University: Teaching Astronomy through Hands-On Activities Summer 2015

Ryan Thompson, OAPT Treasurer, Physics Teacher, Newmarket HS

On July 8 and 9th I attended a two day workshop at York University. The purpose of the workshop was to bring astronomy professors and graduate students together with teachers and showcase three modules that the organizers had developed for the teachers to discuss, play with and refine for use in the classroom. The organizers were from a variety of institutions, not just York but everyone was committed to increasing interest in astronomy in students and also their capability for understanding the science around this fascinating topic. Read More...

James Ball wins the Irwin Talesnick Award for Excellence in Teaching

A physics teacher from Guelph’s John F. Ross CVI has won a prestigious award, recognizing excellence in the teaching of science.

James Ball will be awarded the Irwin Talesnick Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Science by the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario (STAO) this November at the STAO’s annual conference. Among the many requirements of the recipient of the STAO award are unique and extraordinary accomplishments in teaching science to students in the province. Ball’s colleagues and students attest to his dedication and passion both in and out of the classroom.

CBC Interview: Nobel Prize and Physics Teaching

Today the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Canadian physicist Arthur McDonald for his work on neutrino oscillations. Chris Meyer heard about it while driving to work, and talked about it with his first period class, but little did he suspect that before noon he would be interviewed by CBC Newsworld!


Call for Proposals and Exhibitors for the 2016 OAPT Conference

This year’s OAPT conference will be held at Wilfird Laurier University, Waterloo form May 12-14 and the theme is Capturing Diverse Perspectives in STEM. See the flyer for more information about the conference.

We are now accepting proposals for workshops up until Nov. 30, 2015. If you are interested in presenting please fill in a proposal at http://goo.gl/forms/F3naNAQMuH

If you are interested in reserving a table in the exhibitor space, please fill in the exhibitor information form at http://goo.gl/forms/8BXlsHlPsl

Goethe-Institut Toronto & UWaterloo Engineering Competition

Waterloo Engineering has partnered with the Goethe Institut to run a new engineering competition this November for girls in grades 10-11 (WE GO Design).

WE Go.DEsign is a two day Engineering Design and Research Competition for women in grade 10 and 11 presented by the Goethe-Institut. The Grand Prize will be a language, engineering and culture trip to Germany during Summer 2016! There are two elements to the competition, a Research Symposium and a Design Challenge. Each element will be judged by Goethe Institut and University of Waterloo faculty and staff, with prizes awarded in each element.

For more information, visit the website:

Review: The Martian

James Ball, OAPT Membership Chair, Physics Teacher, John F. Ross C.V.I.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 luminous gaseous bodies

The Martian is a very entertaining movie, which will appeal to a wide audience. As a physics/science/science teacher I found it to be particularly enjoyable.

I’m going to review it according to the science, technology, engineering and math that it presents (yup that’s STEM). Read More...

Workshop: Perimeter Institute presents Hands on Wave Particle Duality

Hosts: Stephanie Barich and Jeannette Rensink (Pickering High School), Damian Pope and Glenn Wagner (Perimeter Institute)
Contact: Stephanie Barich, barich_stephanie@durham.edu.on.ca

Date: October 9, 2015
Time: 8:30 am - 11:00 am or 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: 180 Church Street North, Ajax, ON

Come explore the Challenge of Quantum Reality, a classroom resource designed by educators in collaboration with Perimeter Institute researchers to introduce senior physics students to the wonder and power of quantum physics. Experience the electron double-slit experiment as you participate in a hands-on classroom activity that will introduce the fundamental concepts involved in wave-particle duality.

Field Trip: The Physics of Movie Stunts

Fly through the air with the greatest of ease! Stage epic martial arts battles or use your super powers to save the universe! Find out how they really do these amazing stunts in Hollywood movies! At FAST Motion Studios your students can design their action movie sequence, act it out on camera, and analyze the physics!

Know any students who might want to try that kind of thing? Thought so! Read More...

Pointers about Laser Safety

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Physics Teacher Danforth CTI

There is a lot of confusion about which lasers we can and should use in our classrooms. Lasers are classified by power, spread of beam and a variety of other properties. The lower the Class, the safer they are. Read More...

UoW: Teaching Quantum Technology workshop

Learn how to include quantum technology in your curriculum

Apply for the Teaching Quantum Technology workshop (TQT) before October 30

Would you like to deepen your understanding of quantum mechanics and how to convey its beauty and societal importance to your students? The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) has a free workshop on quantum mechanics and technology that will provide you with lesson plans and affordable, ready-to-go activities to take back to your classroom. On December 5 and 6th you will participate in hands-on activities, attend a few lectures and enjoy enrichment activities, as well as take part in roundtable discussions on how to incorporate what you’ve learned into your curriculum.

You will leave this workshop with:
  • The ability to teach quantum mechanics beyond the basics and discuss cutting-edge advances in the field
  • Lesson plans and other affordable, ready-to-go activities for you to take back to your classroom
  • Discussion points about how quantum mechanics can transform society

Space is limited, so apply now for TQT, December 5-6.

If you wish to be added to the mailing list to automatically receive updates about TQT as well as our high school students program, please sign up here giving us the consent to add you to the list.

TAPT: Playing with the New Physics Practicals Room at U of T

Host: Jason Harlow
Monday Nov. 9
U of T McLennan Physical Labs, 255 Huron St. Toronto
Room 126
4:00 – 6:00 (Refreshments 4-4:30)

At this session, you will get a chance to visit our new “Practicals” room where our physics majors do their weekly activities. I’ll be sharing my experiences teaching physics by having university students work through activities in teams of 3 or 4 – rather than the lectures that you probably experienced. You will get to play – just as the students do – with three physics toys. Using “Poppers”, you will work through an inquiry-based lesson based on the different forms of energy and how energy can be transformed from one form to another. Next you will try out our good quality yo-yos and work through a lesson based on friction, work and torque. Finally, you will use a Cartesian Diver, to explore pressure, volume and buoyancy force. There will be lot of time for questions and discussions of how to make the high school-university transition smoother for our students.

As usual, we will have snacks and socializing time from 4:00 – 4:30. Please email Chris (christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca) to let him know that you are coming so we can be sure to have enough food. See you there!

TAPT: Mastering Static Electricity

Host: Chris Meyer
Wed. Sept 30 
York Mills CI, 490 York Mills Rd., Rm 112
4:00 – 6:00 (Refreshments 4-4:30)

Does static electricity have you perplexed? Boost your confidence and improve your understanding of this fascinating and shocking (couldn't resist) topic, which is the foundation for our understanding of current electricity. Join Chris Meyer at York Mills C. I. for an after school session of hands-on exploration. You will work through an inquiry-based lesson on the fundamentals of static electricity and build your understanding of how charges behave in solid matter. The lesson helps target common student (and teacher!) misconceptions and will be of particular interest to teachers of grade 9 science and grade 12 physics who would like to polish their skills. The session will also give you lots of ideas for activities to use with your students. Grab a colleague to bring along! As usual, we will have snacks and socializing time from 4:00 – 4:30. Please email Chris (
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca) to let him know that you are coming so we can be sure to have enough food. See you there!

Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario (STAO) 2015 Conference

Date: November 12th-14th, 2015
Location: International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Rd., Toronto

The STAO2015 conference offers many sessions for Secondary school educators. Highlights of the conference include:
  • inquiry-based science activities, including technology-enhanced learning ideas
  • STAO's 125th celebration with cake and hands-on activities from Mad Science
  • Guest speaker, Bob McDonald from CBC's Quirks and Quarks, on Saturday, November 14th
  • over 50 daily sessions focused on the science and technology classroom
  • The STAO conference itself, along with numerous poster sessions that will inspire you

Please visit stao.ca for more information!

Welcome Back!

The 2015/2016 school year is starting up and as you start to think about the courses you will be teaching and the work you will do with your students, I encourage you to connect with us as we work together to support physics teaching in Ontario. The OAPT Conference will be held on May 12 – 14, 2016 at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The conference will provide active learning workshops, collaborative networking opportunities and exploration of current trends in scientific and technological research. This year, the OAPT conference will focus on Diversity in Physics and STEM.

OAPT continues to support physics education at STAO. Workshops will be presented for Grade 7-10 science programs and the OAPT will be present in the exhibit hall. Let your fellow science teachers know!

I also invite you to join the OAPT team. We would love to have you join us as we prepare for this school year. Currently, we are seeking volunteers to help with the organization of the conference, writing articles for the newsletter, preparation of the Grade 11 Physics Contest and graphic design aspects of public communications for OAPT. If you are interested in joining us, contact me at: cole_lisa@durham.edu.on.ca

Looking forward to another great year!
Lisa Lim-Cole, President

A Numbers Game: the Significant Digits Racket

Chris Meyer, OAPT VP teaching and learning, Assistant curriculum leader York Mills C. I.

OK, let’s begin by admitting that we are all playing a numbers game. Or, at least, we make our students play this game where they bet their marks on correctly figuring out the last digit to write down in their answers. (The classic numbers game is an illegal betting pool where people try to guess the last few digits of some “random” number like a stock price listing.) To make it sporting, we teach our students rules for identifying the significant digits in a given number and rules for deciding how many digits to keep after a calculation. Now, you likely know what happens next. For the rest of the year we are plagued by noisome questions during lessons and tests: “How many significant digits does this have?” “Is this two or three?” “Mr. Meyer, you started with 1000 and your final answer was 17.5 m/s ...” Sound familiar? Read More...

The best physics teaching resource you didn’t know about

Roberta Tevlin, Danforth Collegiate, Past President of OAPT, Editor of OAPT Newsletter

One of the most valuable resources for Ontario physics teachers is now available on the OAPT website. It is a set of videos showing the grade 11U and 12U physics courses as taught by Chris Meyer - our V.P. of Teaching and Learning. Each video is a single lesson (edited to 15-30 minutes) and is accompanied by a student worksheet and a short description of the pedagogy and physics presented.

Instant Feedback Quizzes

Chris Meyer, York Mills, C. I., Toronto
We have added a self-evaluation stage to the quizzes in our grade 11 physics course, turning the quizzes into a valuable learning experience for our students (assessment for learning). Students begin by answering the quiz questions in a traditional fashion, finishing with a quick reflection about any difficulties they might have had. Next, students bring their quizzes to the front of the class where there are multiple copies of the solution and coloured pens to be used for marking. They make additions or corrections to their work, gaining immediate feedback, and submit the marked-up quiz. Read More...

University of Toronto Science Summer Camp

Applications are now open for “Science Unlimited Summer Camp” at the University of Toronto! A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for high school students to participate in a week of Physics, Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Computer Sciences, Math and Chemistry workshops.

For more information and to register, visit: https://scienceunlimited.utoronto.ca/home/

Early Bird Deadline to Apply: April 30, 2015 Regular Deadline to Apply: June 15, 2015 Read More...

OAPT Conference Approaching

The OAPT Conference is quickly approaching!

Join us at the University of Guelph on May 7-9! Let's explore the exciting world of science and build a network of science and physics educators from K-12 to post-secondary!

Registration is open!


  • Keynote by Jay Ingram!
  • Active learning workshop by experienced teachers!
  • Discussion panels!
  • Update from University of Guelph researchers!

Why take part in a Physics Contest?

Shawn Brooks, UTS (University of Toronto Schools)

While they are in high school, I encourage all of my students to try their hand at a physics contest — at least once.

However, it must always be seen as a voluntary enrichment activity, as like any adjudicated performance, a contest creates anxiety. To help my student cope with this I share the following advice. First, you can choose your level of preparedness. You can simply show up and write it, or you can prepare, if you wish to. It is up to you. Second, if you are not completely satisfied with your results, you do not need to tell anybody your score. Conversely, take pride in your score if you do well (just don’t forget there was some luck involved). Third, the OAPT contest is linked directly to SPH3U curriculum. It has questions from the 5 units (Kinematics, Forces, etc.) and is a great review for the exam. And, any preparation students undertake in preparation for their final exam will counter the effects of anxiety later on.

I would like to encourage you to think about offering the OAPT contest to your students this year. It is free. It takes 60 minutes of class time and it might be the last physics contest they ever write!

Barges: STEM Competitions for grades 9 to 12

Roberta Tevlin, Danforth Collegiate, Past President of OAPT

Competitions are a great way to motivate students, to provide a rich learning experience and incorporate the STEM disciplines and problem-solving approach. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find competitions that are appropriate. They need to be challenging but not impossible. They must use cheap materials and tools and should not require significant building skills. If possible, they should require precision in measurement and calculations. One competition that does all of these; and not only that, it has curriculum connections ranging from grade 9 Science to grade 12 Calculus, is “Barges”. Read More...

Welcome to the New OAPT Newsletter

Lisa Lim-Cole, President of OAPT

The 2014/2015 academic year has been an exciting one with many new initiatives for the OAPT. The OAPT website has a new look and the upcoming conference hosted by the University of Guelph Department of Physics promises to be another opportunity to obtain inspiration for physics/science teaching and network with educators across Ontario (K-12 to Postsecondary). Additionally, the Newsletter team continues to find ways to improve our OAPT publication. 

Several years ago we shifted from a quarterly print newsletter to an electronic publication, which in addition to being environmentally conscious, allowed us to include colour images, and a greater variety of articles. The latest rendering of the newsletter offers the same articles, but with greater immediacy as you will no longer have to wait quarterly for your fix of physics! Articles will be published at newsletter.oapt.ca, and archived by date of publication. Categories and tags will enable you to quickly find articles of interest to you; and, the complete set of past issues are readily available. As we move to a more dynamic platform to share upcoming events, news and resources, we encourage all of you to contribute to the Newsletter!
©Ontario Association of Physics Teachers Contact the Newsletter