December 15, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Alasdair Paterson, Teacher at White Oaks Secondary School
Last spring, I took my students 2200 years back in time. My grade 8 students measured the size of the Earth using shadows — the technique first described by Eratosthenes. Read More...
December 09, 2017 Filed in: Announcements
Plans are well underway for this year’s conference which is being held May 10-12
at the University of Western Ontario
This year’s theme is Physics at the Boundaries. We will be highlighting some of the exciting things happening where physics connects with astronomy, biology, philosophy and more! Physics is more than a body of knowledge — it is a very successful way of approaching a wide variety of problems.Proposals for Workshop Sessions:
We are still accepting proposals for sessions, but the deadline of Jan. 26, 2018 is fast approaching. If you have something to present please fill out this form
.Financial Support for Attendees:
The OAPT is aware that it can be very difficult for high school teachers to attend the OAPT conference because so little financial support for professional development is made available by their schools, board and unions. We encourage teachers to tap into these sources wherever possible. In addition we make things easier on teachers’ wallets in four ways. These supports are only possible through the generosity of several organizations.
- Conference fees are kept very low because the host university provides the facilities and many of the speakers at no cost. Our thanks this year go to our host: Western University
- Residence fees are kept to $29.99 a night because the real costs are subsidized by the University of Toronto’s Electrical and Computer Engineering. We thank U of T ECE for their many years of support for this and the OAPT Grade 11 Physics Contest.
- Travel fees for teachers coming from northern Ontario and similar large distances are covered by the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics. (This year, Ottawa will be covered.) To apply to receive this subsidy, please fill in this form.
- Supply Teacher costs will be covered for a number of teachers attending for the first time. This is being offered for the first time this year using profits from our last few conferences. To apply to receive this subsidy, please fill in the following form.
December 09, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Steve Fotheringham, OAPT Exhibit Hall Coordinator, Teacher Oakville Trafalgar High School
As with most teachers, I struggle to provide enough feedback for my students so that they can gauge their understanding of the material. As well, I receive emails on a regular basis from the parents of my students asking about their progress in class and they expect detailed answers. To resolve both challenges, I have turned to Google Quizzes for help. Read More...
December 02, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Adam Mills, Teacher Assumption College Catholic High School
As discussed in Part 1 of this series of articles, one of the major goals within my Physics courses is to expose my students to problem solving. In order to complete this I have my students engage in context rich problems through a cooperative group problem solving (CGPS) setting. Please refer to the previous article
to see the initial setup I use in order to get my students ready to appropriately participate in these types of problem solving opportunities. Read More...
November 22, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, Manager OAPT Newsletter, teacher at Danforth CTI
Are you tired of reading answers from your students that just blather on and on about anything that is vaguely related to the question? It took me many years to realize that I needed to explicitly teach my students how to write a good answer. Dave Doucette’s workshops on giving students the H.O.T.S. (Higher Order Thinking Skills) started me on this path. Learning to write clearly also helps students to think clearly. In an earlier article, I presented an activity called Writing with the Four C’s
. This time I would like to present something I call “Scrambled Science”. Read More...
November 22, 2017 Filed in: Announcements
On Wednesday May 23, 2018, the OAPT is running its annual grade 11 physics contest. The competition is meant to check students’ understanding of the grade 11 curriculum. Students have 60 minutes to answer 30 multiple choice questions.
It takes a team of volunteers to make the contest happen and we want to open it up to the membership to get involved. We are looking for questions. Criteria include: (a) being based on the grade 11 curriculum, (b) mostly conceptual, and (c) original. Whether you have one question or five (or ten), please email it/them to email@example.com
by December 15.
Afterwards, the questions will be made available through the OAPT website as a resource for teachers to use as evaluations or as concept peer review questions. Credit will be given to all contributors.
More info about the contest and FAQ:http://www.oapt.ca/grade_11_contest/
Signing up for the contest and viewing previous contests:http://oapt.ece.utoronto.ca
Thank you for volunteering and / or signing up.
October 28, 2017 Filed in: Articles
By Chris Meyer
Do you shake your fist at the skies when you look over your student’s math work? Do you find yourself cursing the math teachers in your school? If you do, you are likely not alone. But are our grievances and grudges justified? As a physics teacher, it can feel very perplexing to watch one’s students struggle to use grade 10 mathematics in our grade 12 physics classes. Let’s give our math teachers a break for the moment and explore a surprising factor in our physics students’ struggle: the dialect of math that we speak in a physics classroom. Read More...
October 24, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Eric Haller, Secondary Short Term Occasional Teacher, Peel District School Board
In many experiments students collect two-variable data, make scatter plots, and then try to find the line of best fit so they can talk about how two variables are related. Microsoft Excel has a built-in function that readily does this. Read More...
October 09, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Lindsay Mainhood, OCT, recent M.Ed. graduate and current research assistant at Queen’s University.
The underrepresentation of women in physics is apparent at all levels of education and in nearly all countries of the world. When looking at the metaphorical leaky pipeline that supplies the field of physics with women, the largest “leak” or loss of young women from physics occurs in the period between the end of secondary education and the first year of post-secondary education (McCullough, 2002). At this time, we see women’s participation in physics education decline from 36% to 20% across Canada, a 16% loss of women from physics education (NSERC, 2010). According to other physics education research, high school is the period of education most likely to spark young women’s physics interests (Ivie, Cuzjko, & Stowe, 2001). This is of educational concern given that most young women reject physics in the period immediately after experiencing high school physics (Hazari & Potvin, 2005).
How might physics education be failing at recruiting and retaining young women? This article focuses in on findings from a study that sought to understand girls’ experiences of barriers (any factor that negatively influences their ideas and feelings about studying physics) in high school physics education. Nine women, who are now studying in a variety of Ontario university programs at undergraduate and graduate levels, met four times in a group setting as part of the research study to discuss their experiences in high school physics classes. This article offers teacher-oriented recommendations based on factors that influence young women’s ideas and feelings about studying physics. Read More...
October 01, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Richard Taylor, Teacher Merivale High School, Ottawa
Just before the end of the last school year, I saw this video on the Veritasium YouTube channel. I found it fascinating that such a simple setup could highlight such small variations in refractive index. But is it really so simple to set up? Could this be done in the classroom? My summer project was to investigate Schlieren photography. Read More...
September 24, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Presented at the 2017 OAPT Conference, York University
Chris Meyer, teacher York Mills CI
The old me would have scoffed at the thought of my students’ emotional states while learning. “Suck it up and do your work” was my no-nonsense, starch-collared mantra. After all, I’m a physicist! But as I learned more about how the brain works, I was forced to confront my very emotional, educational prejudices. Let’s put our feelings as educators aside and simply ask ourselves the question: “what can I do to help my students learn better?”. Research into the workings of the brain reveal how deeply connected emotion is with learning; emotion is hard-wired into cognition. Teachers need to design lessons to account for students’ emotional response to learning and incorporate not just curriculum outcomes, but emotional outcomes. This article is a summary of the workshop I gave at the 2017 OAPT Conference. You can watch the video and download the PowerPoint slides to learn more. Read More...
September 17, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Nassi Rafiee, teacher Toronto DSB
Many grade 12 physics students plan to pursuit engineering in their post-secondary studies. Surprisingly, many lack a clear idea about the required skillset and what to expect in their next 4 years of education.
Last year I came up with the idea of having students design a mechanical pinball machine that demonstrates the mechanics concepts in grade 12. It was originally intended to focus on team building, engineering design process, physics calculations and writing skills, however as soon as I shared the idea with students, they got so excited that they formed their groups immediately and insisted that they wanted to build it too. Read More...
September 09, 2017 Filed in: Articles
How should we improve math instruction in our province? Pundits and politicians are worked up about the recent, discouraging math scores from the provincial standardized EQAO tests. Luckily, our premier, Kathleen Wynne, is coming to the rescue with an announcement of “sweeping changes”, or maybe a “refresh”, for education in our province. But how will we know if any new changes are going in the right direction? The field of education is littered with the wreckage of pedagogical fads driven by experts who have little connection to functioning classrooms. To navigate this debris, the best maps are those that have been informed by the science of learning and the effective practices of our most successful teachers. These maps will help answer the questions we should be asking as we try to solve the math teaching problem. Read More...
September 03, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Milica Rakic, Teacher at Walkerville Collegiate Institute, Windsor, ON
Have you ever had the feeling that your students can do so much more that what they have been showing you in class?
If you are looking for a change, you might find Chris Meyer’s material very helpful. I switched from traditional lecture-based teaching to using Chris’ resources for inquiry-based learning and my students are very happy that I have made that decision. Read More...
June 17, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Matt Russo, post-doctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA)
Astronomers and philosophers since as far back as Kepler and Pythagoras have imagined what the music of the spheres would sound like. With the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting in the nearby TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, this becomes possible as never before. Aside from being a prime target in the search for life, the TRAPPIST-1 planets are interesting because they form the longest discovered resonant chain. This means that the ratios of the planets' orbital periods form simple whole number ratios. For example, for every two orbits of the outer planet, the next one in completes three orbits and similar patterns exist among the orbits of every pair in this system. Since whole number ratios are the basis of rhythm and harmony, TRAPPIST-1 may be the most musical planetary system ever discovered. Read More...
June 10, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, Editor, OAPT Newsletter
Edited by Tim Langford
Projectile motion often involves a lot of mathematical problem-solving that is overly simplified and highly contrived. Football players do not stop to calculate the range before making a pass. Invading armies might want to make calculations for siege weapons, but these tend to be too complicated (trebuchets) or involve too much energy loss (catapults). Guess and check, was probably the preferred technique. Fortunately there is a cheap and reliable projectile launcher that you can use to show that physics works. Your students will be able to use it to hit a target on their first shot by using calculations for conservation of energy and projectile motion. Read More...
May 26, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Adam Mills, Teacher Assumption College Catholic High School
I am going to write a two part series of articles in which I discuss the ideas of Cooperative Group Problem Solving (CGPS) and how I use these in my classroom. In part one of the series the foundation for what CGPS encompasses will be discussed and in part two, I will go into more detail as to how I use it in my classes. These topics were discussed in my presentation at the OAPT conference this year. You can find the slideshow as well as extra resources at http://bit.ly/OAPT2017
. Read More...
May 21, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter
Physics camp is back again this summer! It will take place just outside of Sudbury on the gorgeous campus of Laurentian University which has with miles of wooded hiking trails and a lovely lake and beach. It will be led by Chris Meyer, Roberta Tevlin and Greg Macdonald from August 9-11. It is paid for by the Ontario Teachers Federation and is completely free (materials, accommodations, breakfast, lunch, coffee breaks, transportation) as long as you are a member of this union. Registration details will be available soon, but in the meantime you should consider keeping those days available. Why would you want to go to physics camp? Read More...
April 29, 2017 Filed in: Articles
A Practical Experiment For Learning Kinematics and Other STEM Concepts
Dr. Theresa Stotesbury, Research and Product Development, Trent University
I am part of a research group out of Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario) that has developed a teaching kit that provides a 60-minute problem-based experiment that is suitable for high school science students. The activity connects forensic science and kinematics through the analysis of blood spatter. I will be presenting the kit at the OAPT conference at 9:30 on Friday May 12th. Read More...
April 21, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Sarah Grimes, Justin Findlay, Dave Doucette, Physics Teachers
Movies, television and video games are awash with heroes, villains and their super-sized cousins. As media consumers, we are captivated by seemingly impossible feats of physical prowess. In fact, they are more than seemingly impossible — they are literally impossible. The magic of cinema coerces us to suspend disbelief and accept the impossible as plausible. How is this done?
With CGI, pulleys, wire-rigging and physics! The magic seen in Mutant X
, Lost Girl
and other programs was combined at FAST (Fight Action Stunt Team) Motion Studios in Toronto, a highly experienced international team of stunt action coordinators, artists and riggers. Students can visit the studio and experience the process first-hand. While there, they will make connections to the physics they’ve learned and will be exposed to career opportunities in a recession-proof industry. Read More...
April 10, 2017 Filed in: Articles
A Workshop at the OAPT Conference Workshop, Saturday, May 13
One of the most frustrating experiences I have had as a teacher is understanding why my students are not improving. I spend a lot of time and energy designing new and hopefully improved lessons for my students. I try to emphasize key details that I know are tricky or problematic for students. I give them careful feedback on their assignments and tests. And yet, my students make the same exasperating mistakes over and over again— they show such little improvement! But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised considering I have never specifically rewarded improvement. Read More...
April 09, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Christine Hudecki, Teacher our Lady of Lourdes Catholic HS
We were just a couple of weeks into the new semester when one of my students started to teach me and the rest of the class. It was a great moment and upon reflection, I think that the student felt comfortable ‘taking over’ because of a number of changes that have I made in my classroom. These were changes that reflect the theme of this year’s conference, Affective Physics: Harnessing Emotion to Improve Learning
. Read More...
March 25, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Keynote Address from the TDSB Eureka! Conference 2017
Chris Meyer, OAPT VP teaching and learning, Assistant Curriculum Leader York Mills C. I.
When I started learning about the science of teaching, it was with very specific questions in mind like “how can I help my students understand Newton’s Third Law”, or “why do students keep using Δx/Δt for accelerated motion?” As I have explored questions such as these over the years, tantalizing clues have led me away from a specific focus on physics pedagogy towards an examination of how people learn. I discovered that the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and physics education research are offering up pieces of a scientific model of learning that can provide real, practical guidance for teachers. This model is in its infancy, but is a crucial step towards turning teaching into a practical science. In the fullness of time, it should be as revolutionary for teaching as Newton’s Principia
was for natural philosophy. Read More...
March 17, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Dave Doucette, OAPT Vice-President
While teaching uniform circular motion in high school, I struggled with developing the ac = v2
relationship in an intuitive and cognitively meaningful way. Geometric arguments do not resonate with students. They accept on faith but often with little interest or insight. Here is an approach that may do a better job. Read More...
March 10, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Dave Gervais, Chair STAO Safety Committee, construction worker
The options for your students that drop out of high school or graduate with high school are very limited. After rolling through the low paying jobs of the service sector, restaurant or retail business, construction work looks pretty good. How do the science and mathematical principles and calculations in construction compare to that taught in our science classes? Read More...
March 01, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Stacey Joyce, Program Manager at Partners In Research Canada (PIR)
I’m sure that you employ a variety of tools and strategies in your classroom, including inquiry activities, independent or group projects, “assessments as, for and of” learning… the list goes on. But how do you and your students answer the questions they come up with during or after the initial inquiry activity? What types of resources do you teach students to use for their independent research? How do you introduce the students to career options that use Physics?
Here’s where video calls and webinars come in, and don’t think that you can’t afford these options — they’re free from Partners In Research Canada (PIR)! Read More...
February 23, 2017 Filed in: Articles
David Gervais, Chair STAO Safety Chair
STAO’s Safe on Science
booklet is a great resource for teachers and is used as the standard for safe practices by many school boards in Ontario. It presently states that only class 1 and 2 lasers should be used in the classroom. This bans almost all laser pointers from your classroom. A recent OAPT Newsletter article
questioned why class 3R lasers (most regular laser pointers) are not accepted. After carefully reviewing the literature and holding extensive discussions, STAO has decided that laser class 3R should be added for recommended use in schools. The Safe on Science
booklet is being revised and will be completed by March 31. This will be sent to school boards in the province. Read More...
February 17, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, editor OAPT Newsletter
Edited by Tim Langford, Chris Meyer
Physics Education Research has provided solid evidence that lectures may be good at transmitting knowledge but poor at developing understanding and so we should implement student-centred learning in our classrooms. However, Susan Cain, the author of the 2012 best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
is very dismissive of the way group learning is replacing lectures. The book’s central premise is that our culture is too strongly slanted in favour of extroverts and they way they work and learn.
At first, the anti-group work message of the book just got my back up. I read it so that I could refute it. Further reflection has made me realise that it provides some important insights and even fits well with this year’s conference theme of Affective Physics
. Read More...
February 11, 2017 Filed in: Articles
by Tim Langford
Last month I attended a “train the trainer” workshop for TWI: Training Within Industry. Industry is a different world than education. However, as I took in the information that our instructor offered, my mind naturally gravitated to how these lessons apply to what I know best, the teaching of physics. This is a short article that attempts to link one best practice from industry to what you and I do daily in the physics classroom. Read More...
February 02, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Sara Cormier, Instructional Assistant, McMaster University
The Department of Physics & Astronomy at McMaster University recently redesigned the first-year physics course for the Life Sciences, Physics 1A03. We needed to design a course for a large number (~1800 students per year) who may or may not have taken any physics in high school. For many of these students, Physics 1A03 will be the only university physics course they take. It was essential that we make the course fun and relevant and help instill an appreciation for physics. We needed to create a course that was useful and exciting for students whose predominant interests lie in the life sciences, but also provide enough background physics for those students who may wish to continue in a physics stream. This was a challenge, but September 2016 marked the first anniversary of Physics 1A03 and I think it is now safe to say that we successfully met (or exceeded) our goals. Read More...
January 26, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, editor OAPT Newsletter
Edited by Tim Langford
Are you getting frustrated reading answers that ramble on and don’t make much sense? Does it look like your students are writing everything they know about the topic in the hope that some part of it answers the question? Writing with the 4 Cs is a teaching technique to improve writing and thinking. Read More...
January 21, 2017 Filed in: Announcements
Chris Meyer will be presenting at the University of Guelph Department of physics this coming Tuesday, January 24. All are welcome.
Title of Talk: Revolutions in Physics Education: Build a Better Student, Build a Better Teacher
Abstract: We live in an exciting time for teaching physics. Over 30 years of education research by physics professionals is transforming physics teaching from a mystical art into a practical science. In the process, many educational myths have been successfully challenged. Research is providing great insight into the cognitive development of our students’ physics understanding and the accompanying physical changes that take place in the brain. As a result, pedagogical techniques have broken free from the traditions and fads of the past, and are now grounded in an empirical understanding of how humans learn. By creating a research-based learning environment, we can literally build better students and build better teachers. In this talk, Chris will share the key results from education research that inspired him to create a lecture-free high school physics program that is now spreading across Ontario.
For more information visit: https://www.physics.uoguelph.ca/events/physics-colloquia/revolutions-in-physics-education-build-a-better-student-build-a-better-teacher
January 20, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Ryan Thompson, OAPT Treasurer, Physics Teacher Newmarket HS
When the Growing Success
document came out in Ontario, the terms “Assessment as, for and of learning” were introduced. Even after teaching for 13 years, I still have to pause and stare into space as I try to differentiate between the three types. Time dilation is easier than that!
I believe in timely feedback and having direct involvement in each student’s success but I am also managing a schedule that is very limited on time (time dilation again!). As a result, I try to do what I can in the classroom
This article will be about one technique that helps me reconcile the Growing Success
document’s expectations, my own philosophy of teaching and limited time in the school day. This tool is called The Check Up and it helps the teacher get quick feedback about your past lesson. Read More...
January 19, 2017 Filed in: Announcements
Dr. Jason Cole
Research Scientist, Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma)
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
Date: Tuesday February 21, 2017
Location: Durham District School Board, 400 Taunton Road East, Whitby Ontario
Time: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Understanding Earth's climate and factors that affect it is a complex and important issue for society. Models of varying detail and scope are tools that can be used to capture our knowledge about climate and to explore its response to different scenarios. In this talk, Dr. Cole will discuss the basic ideas behind one such model, called an Earth System Model, illustrating how we translate our scientific understanding into mathematical models and in turn use computer technology to solve the mathematics.
Jason Cole is a research scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). He works on development and improvement of atmospheric processes in the Canadian Earth System Model and its evaluation using satellite-based observations. Dr. Cole was granted his PhD and MSc in Meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University after having obtained his BSc in Physics and Atmospheric Sciences from McGill University.
January 14, 2017 Filed in: Announcements
Jan.23 to Feb.10 2017
Is astronomy part of your school curriculum but you feel uncomfortable teaching it to your students? We have the solution! Discover the Universe
offers a free
online astronomy workshop for teachers. In this workshop, we will cover many astronomy subjects such as phases of the Moon and the Solar system and we will provide material and activities to use in class.
For information and registration: www.discovertheuniverse.ca
January 12, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Dave Doucette, OAPT Vice-President
Lisa Lim-Cole OAPT Past President
A recent OAPT Newsletter article
from John Caranci laments the fact that over the past decade, despite an increase in the total number of Ontario grade 12 physics credits, the percentage of females has remained at around 31%. John insightfully suggests looking at elementary education and we agree. But to better understand the challenge we need to have a good understanding of the shifting landscape in elementary education. The inquiry-based learning approach which anchors the curriculum is now being stressed by a newcomer to the field: STEM education. The good news is that STEM and inquiry are totally complementary — and both require habits of mind exemplified by physics instruction. If we work together to support K-8 educators in successfully marrying inquiry with STEM education, we are likely to see far more students selecting secondary physics course, including more females. A worthy goal! Read More...