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Articles

# Kinematics is Boring: Taking the Arithmetic Out

John Caranci, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/U. of T., CTL Lecturer Intermediate/Senior Physics, Chemistry, Science
john.caranci@utoronto.ca

A while ago when I taught high school my grade 10 Science class came into my classroom after my grade 11 physics class had left. I had just done a lesson on the development of the kinematic formulae using graphing. One of my grade 10 students seemed mesmerized by the boards covered in figures and diagrams. They turned to me and asked what was on the board. I said kinematics, which is part of the grade 11 physics course. Their response was “I guess it will be biology next year for me.” What makes kinematics like this? Is it the mathematics? Is it the lack of relationship to the real world (ignoring friction)?

I began playing with alternatives to present the topic. I recognized it was not the authentic or real-world connections, it appeared to be the arithmetic. Notice, I did not say the mathematics or physics. Many times, a simple arithmetical mistake (even to the point of a miss-written minus sign), might cause them to believe that their whole solution, and therefore their understanding of kinematics, is wrong.

When a student approaches a kinematics problem, they usually draw the sketches and list what’s given and what’s required. Then they choose the formula. That is where the physics ends, and the arithmetic starts. As physics teachers, do we assess physics or arithmetic? Read More...

# En-ROADS: A Powerful Simulator to Explore Solutions to Climate Change

Roberta Tevlin (retired physics teacher)
roberta@tevlin.ca

Do yourself a favour and go to https://www.climateinteractive.org/ and select EN-ROADS, the first large button available. Play around with the simulator for a bit and then come back to this article to learn how you can use it. Read More...

# A Video Analysis as an End of Unit Assessment

Dale Simnett, Peel District School Board
dale.simnett@peelsb.com

Friends, Peers, Physics Teachers,
The use of video in physics as a means of teaching and learning is as old as optic obscura. I’m sure most physics teachers have a video analysis project that they can dust off and give to their students. Identifying the terrible physics in cartoons, superhero movies, or more recently, the Fast and Furious series, is a right of passage in physics teaching!

Observing the world, making measurements, and trying to make sense of what we see is at the heart of physics. Why not make that a goal in our teaching as well as our assessment? I propose using a video analysis as an end of unit assessment.

Why should you try video analysis as an assessment? Here is my case. Read More...

# Hamilton, McMaster, and the April 8 Eclipse

Dr. Robert Cockcroft, Assistant Professor / Director, William J. McCallion Planetarium / Secretary, Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA)
cockcroft@mcmaster.ca

Hamilton and McMaster University are lucky to be positioned along the path of totality for the upcoming April 8th eclipse, and as such, both have been preparing for it for some time now. McMaster’s Provost has purchased 600 000 solar eclipse viewing glasses, enough for every Hamiltonian, so that you can use them to view the Sun while it is partially covered by the Moon leading up to, and after, totality. These free viewers are available while supplies last at the Hamilton and Haldimand library branches, the McMaster University libraries, and the Burlington libraries. They are also being distributed through participating school boards.

Why do total solar eclipses capture the imagination of so many people, whether or not you’re in science? I offer three answers that spring immediately to mind. Read More...

# The What, Why and How of the April 8, 2024 Eclipse

Orbax, Production Specialist for Physics Education Content, Dept of Physics, University of Guelph
orbax@uoguelph.ca

Greetings educators! Orbax here from the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph.

I’m here to speak to you today about a very important topic.

You’re likely aware of a newly discovered disease that has been sweeping across Ontario in the last few weeks.

Eclipse fever has taken hold and it’s taking over news broadcasts, school board meetings, targeted ads and classrooms throughout our province. Read More...

# To Be or Not to Be Eclipsed: The Path of Totality!

Olga Michalopoulos (Retired)
michalopouloso@hdsb.ca

A rare phenomenon that only comes around once in a lifetime is set to take place in Ontario this spring. A total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024 will turn daytime into darkness in Ontario, and we have an opportunity to share this experience with our students. The last time a total solar eclipse took place in Canada was August 2008, but it was only visible in Nunavut.

Did you know that the chance of seeing a total solar eclipse in any one location on the Earth is about once every 400 years? For instance, the next total solar eclipse to be visible in the GTA won’t occur until October 26, 2144! This is why it’s referred to as a “once in a lifetime” event.

First, a little astronomy background. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow on the Earth that either partially or completely blocks the light from the Sun on the areas of the Earth where the shadow falls. Read More...

# Calculating a Planet’s Temperature

Shawn Brooks, UTS (University of Toronto Schools)
sbrooks@utschools.ca

With just a little coaxing, and a little help from their calculators, our grade 10 science students can use a simple energy-balance type of climate model to calculate the average temperature of a planet.

With this activity, your students will be able to calculate what the earth’s average surface temperature would be if it didn’t have a greenhouse gas containing atmosphere.

This one-period activity can show your students how the numerical value of Earth’s albedo (0.3) is very meaningful to our planet’s temperature! If you are looking to inject a little more physics into your Earth and Space Science: Climate Change unit, this might be the thing for you. Read More...

# Greening Electricity Using Project Drawdown for Grades 9-12

Milica Rakic, Essex DHS
mica@opusteno.com
Roberta Tevlin, retired
roberta@tevlin.ca

In order to prevent the worst of climate change, the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has to be reduced as fast as possible. The enormity of this task can look overwhelming and can lead to climate despair. However, we already have the technology we need and a great source of information about this can be found on the website of Project Drawdown where they provide details of almost 100 solutions.

The goal of Project Drawdown is to show how we can ‘drawdown’ the emission of GHGs and then ‘drawdown’ the amount of these gases that are already in the air. This article shows how you can have your students examine 19 of these solutions which are involved in the production and use of electrical energy. This exercise is a good fit for the electricity unit in grade 9 science, the climate change unit in grade 10 science, the electricity unit in grade 11 university physics, and the energy transformation unit in grade 12 college physics. Read More...

# Two Excellent Simulations from PhET to Help Explain the Greenhouse Effect

Michelle Lee, Lisgar C. I.
michelle.lee@ocdsb.ca
Roberta Tevlin,Retired
roberta@tevlin.ca

Understanding the greenhouse effect is critical to understanding climate change and PhET has two excellent simulations that can help. This article describes how you can use these two simulations and a couple of supporting videos, to help your students develop a good understanding of the topic. This is most obviously relevant to the grade 10 Climate Change Unit. It is also relevant to grade 9 Astronomy and Ecosystems, Grade 10 Optics, and senior chemistry and physics. Read More...

# Hands-On Climate Change Activities

Iain Braithwaite, John F. Ross C.V.I.
iainbraithwaite@ugdsb.on.ca
Roberta Tevlin, retired
roberta@tevlin.ca

Climate change can feel very threatening and at the same time it can feel very abstract. Demonstrations that use simple materials can help students understand the concepts better, and they provide a change of pace. We have gathered a collection of nineteen demonstrations to help with the grade 10 Climate Change unit, both SNC2P and SNC2D. Read More...

# What Can the OAPT (And You) Do about Climate Change?

Roberta Tevlin, Retired Teacher
roberta@tevlin.ca

Are you concerned about climate change? Do you wonder what you can do? A group of OAPT members have got together to help OAPT members to take action. We have some suggestions. Read More...

# The (Engineering) Design Process in the New Science Curriculum

Chris Meyer, Past President of the OAPT
Chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

The revised grade 9 science curriculum introduces a new problem-solving process that might not be familiar to many teachers: the (engineering) design process. Let's explore this problem-solving strategy and examine some design tasks that I have created for grade 9 science. Read on! Read More...

# Advanced Curve Fitting in Desmos

Eric Haller, Peel District School Board, Editor of the OAPT Newsletter
eric.haller@peelsb.com

Often, we ask students to do an experiment, gather a set of two-variable data, make a scatter plot, and then try to find the curve of best fit, along with its equation. Historically, Microsoft Excel was the go-to for doing something like this, however nowadays I find my students are most comfortable using Desmos to graph things, because it’s free, simple to use, and doesn’t require any installation or logging in. Desmos is great for making scatter plots and fitting curves, and it can even fit curves beyond Excel’s ‘Add Trendline’ functionality, which is limited to exponential, power, logarithmic, and polynomial-types of curves (Excel can do additional curves, but it's tricky, check out my previous article for instructions on how to do that if you like). In this article, I’d like to go over how you can do a curve of best fit in Desmos, even for complicated curves like what you would find with a damped harmonic oscillator experiment, or with Kepler's third law of planetary motion. Read More...

# Reflections on My Journey Destreaming Grade 9

Brad Dixon, Destreaming Coach, Minor Head of Science, Guelph CVI, UGDSB

The first semester of destreaming grade 9 science has now come to a close. If you were someone like me who was involved in math as well, you might be 3 semesters deep at this point. Regardless, semester change is always a great time to reflect on what has happened. If you are destreaming, a lot has likely happened.

This year I've had the privilege of being a leader in my school, working to iron out the kinks in the destreaming process in both math and science. This has given me the opportunity to work with many teachers, and also the time to reflect on what the wins and losses are so far.

For those of you deep in the destreaming weeds right now, I have compiled some of my reflections, lessons learned, and some advice that hopefully can help some of you. Read More...

# The Joly Photometer

Eric Haller, Editor-in-Chief of the OAPT Newsletter, Peel District School Board
eric.haller@peelsb.com
Robert Prior, ePublisher of OAPT Newsletter
science@robertprior.ca

There’s a lot of physics hidden in the grade nine curriculum, if you know where to look. For example, the inverse-square law appears in the space unit, as part of the reason scientists know how far away stars are. It is often presented as a given, but deriving it from experimental evidence is a neat way to use a hands-on activity to show the process of science.

How did physicists measure light before they had photometers? John Joly, FRS, invented a comparative photometer over a century ago. We’ve used this simple device to explore the inverse-square law in a totally low-tech way. Read More...

# First Impressions of ChatGPT

Robert Prior, ePublisher of OAPT Newsletter
science@robertprior.ca

The new artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT, from OpenAI, has been in the news lately, with many pearls clutched about the possibilities of students using it to cheat, while boosters have proclaimed that it is poised to revolutionize teaching.

I’ve spent some time playing with it, and at the moment it doesn’t match the hyperbole of either side. Read More...

# Skill Fluency and Memory Consolidation in Grade 9 Science

By Chris Meyer, Past-President, OAPT
Chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

Does it seem like students are getting slower and slower when working on a quiz? Do they behave like a gas, expanding to take up all the time for the test no matter how much time you provide? Why is this happening? The answer to this is likely complex. Students are more anxious and risk averse than in the past and are desperate to avoid “losing” any marks. These are cultural factors that are very hard for us to control. But another factor is that we don't train students to be fast! Speed or fluency is seldom an explicit goal of our science instruction. Read More...

# Building LED “Candles” for Grade 10 Optics

Richard Taylor, retired Physics teacher, Ottawa Carleton District School Board
Richard@teya.ca

“Brrrriiinngg! Hello, Richard? I was just cutting up some candles to use in the grade 10 optics labs and I got thinking about those cute little LED things you made. Do you think you could make some more for me?”

Certainly I remembered the grade 10 optics labs! Carefully prepping all those candles and optical benches, carefully priming the students to use the candles. Turn out the classroom lights and then the chaos begins. Matches breaking, fingers and hair getting singed, wax spilled on lab benches and floors (amazingly slippery!), images too dim to be seen, and which way up is that candle flame image anyway?

Several years ago, I came up with a better idea: mounting a red and a green LED on top of a 9 V battery. The LEDs produce about the same amount of light as a candle, and having the two different colours makes it easy to see whether an image is upright or inverted. After building 15 more of these, I thought it was about time to share the instructions so that other teachers can build their own. Read More...

# Freefalling For You: Improve Your Teaching of Freefall!

Chris Meyer, York Mills C.I., Toronto District School Board
Chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

Pride comes before the freefall
What topic could be easier, right? It’s just straight up and down — no funny business. Freefall is the poster child of constant acceleration, everyone’s go-to example. We can teach this in our sleep! But we might not realize that we are setting up our students for a physics ambush. While our students’ first freefall problem might seem straightforward and understandable, the second one often contains a trap!

Second freefall problem: “You drop a ball from a window 1.9 m above the ground. How much time does it take to hit the ground?” The student sizes up the problem; it seems easy. The displacement is 1.9 m downward. The acceleration is known; the student is feeling confident. They can find the time if they know one more motion quantity. Ah, the final velocity is zero! Problem solved!

And thus, the unsuspecting student is ensnared in the most common trap of freefall motion. This highlights the real challenge of understanding freefall: students need a genuinely sophisticated understanding of forces to make use of freefall ideas. Emphasizing freefall before studying forces allows students to tumble into numerous, all-too-common learning traps. Let’s nimbly dodge these traps and explore a better way to study freefall! Read More...

# Science Communication Presentations from the University of Guelph

Orbax, Production Specialist for Physics Education Content, Department of Physics, University of Guelph
orbax@uoguelph.ca

Greetings educators! Orbax here from the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph.

When I went to university for physics in the late 90s, “science communication” as we know it now did not exist. Our science communicators were there, but it seemed like it was much more of a journey to find them then than it is now. Television (both high-end productions and cable access), radio, print media… these were the ways in which we found science communication mostly born out of a necessity to demystify some of the more obscure elements of our profession as well as a way to combat some of the pseudoscience that was rampant in the media. Read More...

# Free Lesson Extensions Bring Grade 11 Physics to Life for Diverse Students

Kim Jones, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University
kjones@mcmaster.ca

It’s the question students have been asking for generations, in math classes, in science classes, and definitely in Physics classes… “Miss, when am I going to use this?” They rub their faces and pull on their hair in despair, unable to connect the laws of motion to their day-to-day dreams of the future.

Studies have shown that students are more motivated and interested when they are able to draw a straight line between their learning and its application to helping to solve real-world problems. This is especially true for girls.

When we look at the problem of girls being under-represented in engineering programs across the country, one of the pain points we can identify is that girls are more likely to opt out of grade 12 physics, a mandatory course for entry into post-secondary Engineering programs. Although there are systemic reasons for this, one of the easiest fixes is to make grade 11 physics curriculum more real-world solution focused. Read More...

# Why Teach Bohr Diagrams?

Chris Meyer, Past President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

# How do electrons in a circuit know what to do?

Chris Meyer, Past President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

At times electrons can seem awfully clever, as if they talk to one another and plan what each will do: “okay, so you two go along that path and I'll go along this one” or “I'll only give up ¼ of my energy here because the next load has a higher resistance and I need to give it ¾ of my energy”. How do they pull off these amazing feats of collaboration and foresight? For years I was genuinely stumped when trying to explain the rationale behind series and parallel phenomena; my attempts were all variations of “well, because that’s what happens”.

How do electrons “know” that there is another resistor connected in series down the road? How do they “know” which parallel path to choose? For that matter, how does a battery connected to a single resistor “know” how much current to push? There are so many mysteries of simple electric circuits! Let's explore the last question first, which will help us answer all the others. Read More...

# May the Real Polarization Model, Please Stand Up

Saara Naudts, Peel District School Board
saara.naudts@icloud.com

Inspired by Adam Mills’s recent articles on Shining Light on Grade 10 Optics (see part 1 and part 2), I wanted to extend the spotlight to linear polarization in the grade 12 The Wave Nature of Light unit. When teaching how light gets polarized when passing through a filter, we often see a rope and gate model, where a vertically oriented filter allows vertical vibrations to pass through and a horizontally oriented filter allows horizontal vibrations to pass through. Unfortunately, this model has its shortcomings.

Over a decade ago, OAPT past-president, Roberta Tevlin introduced me to an activity during which students act out the process of polarization through a polarizing filter the right way. As an advocate for “learning by doing” and as a supporter of John Dewey’s Experiential Learning Theory (Dewey, 1938), I want to share this simple, yet effective dramatization of linear polarization. I hope you will give it a try with your students and find it to be a meaningful and effective teaching strategy. Read More...

# Improving the Teaching of Forces: Cognitive Chunking and Chaining

Chris Meyer, Past President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

In my early years of teaching physics, I was often surprised by the difficulties my grade 12 students (actually OAC students at the time!) had with forces. Many times, the sneaky culprit responsible for their troubles was the first law of motion. “Why are they having trouble with such simple grade 11 ideas?” I puzzled, “these are good students”. I have been wrestling with this question for 23 years and now have a better understanding of what I'm trying to accomplish as a teacher and what is happening inside my students’ heads. Let’s explore a better way to train students to think about forces. Read More...

# Monthly Star Gazing Guide

Orbax, Production Specialist for Physics Education Content, Department of Physics, University of Guelph
orbax@uoguelph.ca

Greetings everyone! Orbax here. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been a member of the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph as an instructor for over 13 years now, and most recently as a production specialist in physics education content. Just like you, I love physics and I love teaching physics. I remember when I was young laying in my parents’ bed and poring through a book my father had from his university class on astronomy. I had very little understanding of what I was looking at in those pictures but I knew that the fantastic images in front of me showed a universe that laid just beyond the clouds, one that captured my imagination and that sent me down a path to becoming a physicist.

Since then my career has taken me to many places but I have never lost the fascination I’ve always held for outer space. I feel there are few things more galvanizing to scientists and interesting to the population as a whole than space exploration. As such, I’ve started a video series of monthly ‘Star Gazing Guides’. Very much in the tradition of the old Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer series (does anyone else remember those?), we take a look around the night sky for upcoming events of interest. The videos are very much aimed at the general population with little or no astronomy experience, but as a physics teacher, I try to use a portion of the video to slyly backdoor some actual physics education content. We talk about wavelengths of light, rotational axes, basic planetary interactions, and try to explain things like the solstice or an eclipse. Read More...

# Rich Problem-Solving Challenges for Virtual Students

Chris Meyer
Past-President, OAPT
Chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

# Arithmetic Questions in Brightspace Quizzes

Eric Haller, Editor-in-Chief of the OAPT Newsletter, Secondary Long Term Occasional Teacher with the Peel District School Board
eric.haller@peelsb.com

With the switch to online and hybrid learning, we have had to migrate much of what we do in class to an online environment for the students working from home. Many boards have opted to use Brightspace for their virtual learning environments, and that’s what I use to post my announcements, synchronous meeting links, lesson notes, calendars, grades, assignments, rubrics, and so on. Students can find and submit their assignments to me using the Assignments tab. The Rubric tool allows me to create and share rubrics with my classes, making marking, exporting marks to the Grades section, and returning feedback, all extremely quick and easy. Brightspace streamlines this so well that I no longer accept hardcopy or emailed submissions. In conversations with my coworkers about the features in Brightspace that we use, I was surprised to learn that many of my peers were not comfortable using Brightspace to give tests. I still regularly see my colleagues administer pen-and-paper tests in their hybrid classes. Students attending school in-person write the test in the traditional way, and students at home typically print out a .pdf of the test, write on it in pencil, and scan and send it back to the teacher. Tech savvy students might just write directly onto the .pdf using a tablet instead. While this method works for many teachers, I find that it creates numerous problems. Since we can’t really proctor students writing the test online, they can use their notes, the internet, and even call their friends for help without our knowledge. They can even take extra time and email their responses in late, claiming their Wi-Fi is slow or using some other excuse. Students who write the test in-person will be at a significant disadvantage compared to their online counterparts, and so some will decide to stay home on test days to write the test online, which creates attendance issues. Furthermore, marking both hard and soft copy tests can take a lot of extra time compared to just marking one type of test. To avoid these problems, I have students write my tests in Brightspace by using the Quizzes tool. Read More...

# Shining the Light on Grade 10 Optics (Part 2)

President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Assumption College Catholic High School

This article continues from the initial article I wrote on optics, which detailed many of the misconceptions that students struggle with but are hidden inside the simple mathematics of the unit. In this article I look at practical ways for making the optics unit more interactive, with a focus on developing the rules for ray diagrams and the cooperative group problem solving I have my students complete at the end of the unit. Read More...

# To Remind Ourselves of Our Shared Purpose: An Opinion Piece About Building and Achieving Collective Efficacy

Saara Naudts, Peel District School Board
saara.naudts@icloud.com

What a ride these past couple years have been… We dealt with contract negotiations and navigated through new realities as a result of the global pandemic. We have shown true grit adapting to various new learning environments including quadmesters, virtual learning, modified semesters, hybrid learning, and other previously unfamiliar formats. My intention with this article is to explore what has helped us get through these challenges and the role of the OAPT in building and achieving collective efficacy among physics educators in Ontario.  Read More...

# Online Exit Cards

Eric Haller, Editor-in-Chief of the OAPT Newsletter, Secondary Long Term Occasional Teacher with the Peel District School Board
eric.haller@peelsb.com

I was taught about exit cards when I was in teachers college, but I was never asked to complete any as a student, and as a new teacher I didn’t really think they made sense. We typically can’t dismiss the students who complete their exit cards early, nor can we hold back students who need more time to complete them after class; so I didn’t really see the value in doing exit cards. With the current pandemic, however, times have drastically changed. In the Peel District School Board (PDSB), we are currently using a teaching model where we are simultaneously teaching students both in class and at home (also known as the hybrid learning model or the community learning model). Prior to the pandemic I could do a quick scan of the classroom and see which students were working, which weren’t, and who was struggling. Now, with many students at home with their webcams off, scanning the room is no longer possible. I had found myself in need of a teaching strategy that would give me a means of checking in on every student in the class (both in school and at home). I also wanted a teaching strategy I could use everyday that would encourage the students at home to attend and participate in class, and one that allowed me to continuously track individual student achievement. To solve this problem, I realised that exit cards would work perfectly, so long as they were submitted to me online. Read More...

# Scientific Models for Electrical Polarization: A Close Look at Grade 9 Static Electricity

Chris Meyer, Past President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

Why explore the idea of polarization?
A good way to learn about static electricity is by exploring things around us: run a comb through your hair, peel different fabrics apart, go down a plastic slide in a playground, there's so many possibilities! Another common one is the rubbed balloon sticking to a wall: an example of a charged and uncharged object interacting that requires some subtle science to explain. The grade 6 science curriculum mentions examples like this but leaves out the scientific tools to properly explain it. The grade 9 curriculum mentions charging by induction and again leaves out the science. Electrical interactions form the conceptual backbone for an understanding of atoms and molecules, electric circuits and fields, and why those annoying bits of Styrofoam keep sticking to our hands! The missing idea from the curriculum is polarization, a concept that explains the attraction between a charged and neutral object. Polarization also serves as a conceptual bridge between the topics of static and current electricity, which are often taught as two distinct topics. The curriculum provides a poor road map for learning about electricity; it will pay us great dividends as teachers to do a better job of this, so let's explore polarization! I want to share with you two lessons for grade 9 science that focus on this important electrical concept. Read More...

# Teaching Astronomy by Inquiry: Light and Chemistry!

Chris Meyer, OAPT Past President, TDSB hybrid teacher-coach
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Back in the day, I used to teach at the Ontario Science Centre and present their school programs. I would meet the visiting teacher and mob of grade 9 students in advance of my “Cosmic Connections” program and ask, “So has your class covered the astronomy unit yet?” On more than one occasion, the teacher answered, “No. You’re it!” That’s right; my 45-minute extravaganza was all the astronomy that students would get in grade 9. Despite fifteen years passing since then, the topic of astronomy still does not fall within every teacher’s comfort zone, so I hope that sharing the resources for our inquiry-based unit on grade 9 astronomy will help. In this article I will explain the ideas and pedagogical design of our unit and hopefully encourage you to check it out!

This is the second part of Chris’s article on teaching astronomy by inquiry. For the first part, please go here. Read More...

# Teaching Astronomy by Inquiry: The Sun, Moon, and Math

Chris Meyer, OAPT Past President, TDSB hybrid teacher-coach
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Back in the day, I used to teach at the Ontario Science Centre and present their school programs. I would meet the visiting teacher and mob of grade 9 students in advance of my “Cosmic Connections” program and ask, “So has your class covered the astronomy unit yet?” On more than one occasion, the teacher answered, “No. You’re it!” That’s right; my 45-minute extravaganza was all the astronomy that students would get in grade 9. Despite fifteen years passing since then, the topic of astronomy still does not fall within every teacher’s comfort zone, so I hope that sharing the resources for our inquiry-based unit on grade 9 astronomy will help. In this article I will explain the ideas and pedagogical design of our unit and hopefully encourage you to check it out! Read More...

# KineCards: A Manipulative Activity for Teaching Kinematics

Robert Prior, ePublisher of OAPT Newsletter
science@robertprior.ca

Many of our students struggle with mastering the relationship between position-time graphs and velocity-time graphs. They may know that the velocity-time graph shows the slope of a position-time graph, or that the position-time graph shows the area under the velocity-time graph, but they have trouble telling if two graphs are related except by actually doing the calculations.

We all know that practice makes perfect, but drawing many graphs takes lots of time, and time is in short supply. This activity uses pre-drawn graphs so students spend time thinking rather than drawing. Read More...

# This Is Why…

Joanne O’Meara, Professor, Department of Physics, University of Guelph
omeara@uoguelph.ca

When people think about what physicists do, they often jump directly to the esoteric, like quarks or globular clusters, and don’t necessarily see the myriad connections of physics to our everyday experiences. I’m not criticizing those among us devoted to the esoteric, but I do worry that we are missing out on inspiring and engaging with a large fraction of the science-curious by not taking the time to explore some of the fascinating physics on display in the natural world. As physicists, we are practiced at the art of asking ourselves Why? when we observe something beautiful, unusual, or unexpected, and the feeling that comes from figuring out the answer is what keeps us exploring. I love being able to bring these little explorations into my classroom, especially when I’m teaching first-year physics to biological science students, as helping them to see the relevance of what they are learning can have a profound effect on their motivation. From the beauty of a double rainbow, to penguins using bubbles to reduce drag, or the effect of polarization of scattered light on flies looking for someone/thing to bite, I love that look of wonder and appreciation on my students’ faces when we take a short tangent to extend our learning in optics or mechanics. Read More...

# Diversity

Adam Mills, President of the OAPT

Being a heterosexual, Caucasian male I am hardly an authority on diversity; however, my school community consists of many diverse cultures, races and religions. As such I have been attempting to make a conscious effort to better connect with my students, by ensuring that they gain an understanding that there do exist many physicists that are indeed non-Caucasian, non-male with various sexual orientations. This brief article will explore a few of the techniques, resources and ideas I am implementing in my classroom that you can easily incorporate into yours tomorrow! Read More...

# Reflecting on 2020-2021

Ashley McCarl Palmer, Waterloo Region District School Board, OAPT Vice-President
ashley_mccarlpalmer@wrdsb.ca or @physicswithmcp on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube

As we move into the end of a very difficult and challenging school year, I think it is natural to take some time to reflect on where we are now compared to where we were last September (or even last winter, pre-pandemic). Once you’ve taken some time to do what makes you happy, refill the tank or bucket or whatever metaphor you wish to use, and feel like you have the energy, I encourage you to reflect on what we've all accomplished as a community of educators. Some things we have had to learn quickly, like a new technology platform, or perhaps a different approach that has surfaced in the classroom when we were forced into hybrid or distance learning. I think it's good for all teachers to think about practices we’ve used over a school year and think about which ones we’d like to keep and what we will let go of and thank them for what they have given us (a little Marie Kondo for those of you who, like me, ended up organizing the house last March after watching her show on Netflix). Read More...

# The Rifleman’s Rule

Eric Haller, Secondary Long Term Occasional Teacher, Peel District School Board
eric.haller@peelsb.com

# Physics for Penguins: A Project for Grade 10 Science

Robert Prior, ePublisher of OAPT Newsletter
science@robertprior.ca

The grade ten climate unit is often neglected. This is unfortunate, not only because it is the most relevant unit for our students, who will be dealing with a changing climate, but because it deals with many physics concepts.

Here is a project I use with my grade ten students. It’s a fun, hands-on way for students to demonstrate that they understand basic concepts relating to thermal energy and energy transfer — key topics in grade 11 physics! Read More...

# Fast Feedback

Felipe Almeida, Toronto District School Board
felipe.almeida@tdsb.on.ca

As every student in an introductory physics course (like SPH3U, the grade 11 physics course in Ontario) is untrained, all their practice should be portioned appropriately in both task and problem. I have created scaffolded practice problems for the grade 11 physics course in Google Forms so students can submit their responses for immediate feedback. The forms are intended to save time and make practice/‘homework’ more meaningful and rewarding for both teachers and students. A previous article presented the forms used for portioned practice, this article will present fast feedback.

# Portioned Practice

Felipe Almeida, Toronto District School Board
felipe.almeida@tdsb.on.ca

As every student in an introductory physics course (like SPH3U, the grade 11 physics course in Ontario) is untrained, all their practice should be portioned appropriately in both task and problem. I have created scaffolded practice problems for the grade 11 physics course in Google Forms so students can submit their responses for immediate feedback. The forms are intended to save time and make practice/‘homework’ more meaningful and rewarding for both teachers and students. This article presents the forms used for portioned practice, a future article will present fast feedback. Read More...

# The Plinko Model for Energy in Electric Circuits

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

When it comes to the study of electricity, it is the simplest ideas that students understand the worst. This is because electricity does its thing invisibly, so our job as teachers is to help make those microscopic goings-on visible. To do this, we create conceptual models that allow us to visualize what happens inside a circuit. I would like to share with you the resources I have created. Read More...

# Red-Hot Steel vs. Frozen Lake: A Real-World Energy Problem

Robert Prior, ePublisher of OAPT Newsletter
science@robertprior.ca

What happens when you heat a 20 kg cylinder of steel red-hot, and put it on a frozen lake? This may look like a silly question, but Lauri and Anni Vuohensilta — the crazy Finns of Beyond the Press — did it, and it makes a nice guided inquiry activity for exploring energy transfer in the grade 11 physics. Read More...

# Physics Labs For Independent Learning

Daniel Muttiah
daniel.muttiah@tdsb.on.ca

My first-year physics professor, Dr. D.S. Scott, in my first year of university said something that has stayed with me over the years. During one of his lectures he asked the question: where is the best physics lab located? There were various responses from different students and his response was a no to all the major labs mentioned. Finally he responded with the statement: the best physics lab is the world around you. I have not forgotten Professor Scott's words of wisdom which have inspired me over the years, both in my learning and in my teaching. Read More...

# So You Wanna Go Gradeless…

Ashley McCarl Palmer, WRDSB Teacher
ashley_mccarlpalmer@wrdsb.ca or @physicswithmcp

As we move forward in the pandemic, education is finally taking a huge leap as many educators abandon their old ways of teaching and trying something new. For some, they have heard about this wave of people going “gradeless” and they are curious about what it is about. For others, they look at their old methods of assessing and recognize that tests may not cut it anymore… and if you get rid of tests (or things that were traditionally numerically marked) then what goes into a student’s grade? Or perhaps more importantly, why even grade them at all? Read More...

# Using Quizlet with your Virtual Classes

Steven Fotheringham, Halton District School Board
fotheringhas@hdsb.ca

As you prepare your classes for the new quadmester, you will be looking for new ways for your students to make connections with one another. Whether your classes are in-person, virtual or blended, you can try Quizlet in your classes. I have had a lot of success integrating Quizlet Live into my virtual teaching practice. Here's a quick overview of how Quizlet can be used in virtual classes. Read More...

# It’s OK to be an OK teacher in 2020

Brad Dixon, Science & Math Teacher, Minor Head of Science
Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute

This year I feel like every time I turn around there is a new social media post, or email from my favourite teaching organization or vendor, introducing or highlighting a new innovative COVID-19-friendly teaching practice. It is great that so many people are reaching out and sharing ideas to help advance us all as a profession.

In any other year, I have enjoyed scrolling through social media to see this sharing, and have utilized many good ideas and resources from those who share. I have always been thankful for those who take the time to share their ideas freely online, and sometimes I even try to contribute my own ideas. However, this year I am finding that seeing this sharing is more stressful than helpful. After some self-reflection I came to the conclusion that I only have the time, energy and mental capacity to be an okay teacher this year. I also decided that I’m okay with that. Read More...

# Cooperative Groups for Simultaneous Learning

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

# General Relativity: Beyond the Bowling Ball and the Trampoline

Kelly Foyle (kfoyle@perimeterinstitute.ca), Outreach Scientist, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Philip Freeman (
freeman@sphericalcows.net), Teacher, sd38 (Richmond) Richmond, BC

The authors were inspired to write this article while they worked on Perimeter Institute’s new black hole resource together. To learn more about general relativity and black holes and find ready-to-use, hands-on activities you can do with your class, download the free resource here.

One of the most startling and remarkable discoveries of the 20th century was that gravity is not a mysterious, invisible force. In developing general relativity, Einstein showed that gravity is the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of mass and energy. But what does the “curvature of spacetime” mean? It is hard to get your head around this mind-bending concept! In relativity, space and time are mixed together into “spacetime” and gravity is explained by the curved geometry of this combination. That space and time can be mixed and curved is contradictory to all our everyday experiences. It is a lot for our brains to handle. While physicists can use the equations, even they need to use analogies to build a deep understanding of such counterintuitive concepts.

One common analogy used to introduce general relativity is the idea of a “mass on a rubber sheet” or “bowling ball on a trampoline”. The bending of the surface caused by the mass pulling the sheet down is used to illustrate the curvature of spacetime in general relativity. A rolling marble on the surface follows a curved path, or “orbits” the central mass, giving convincing evidence of the parallel between the sheet and the action of gravity. But there is a problem with this demonstration – it isn’t showing what it claims to show. In this article we argue that this analogy, as used, is fundamentally flawed and creates significant misunderstanding for both students and teachers. We explain where the problems arise, and how to avoid these problems and still provide a strong visual model and deeper understanding of how general relativity works. Read More...

# How to Use a Green Screen for Teaching

Steven Fotheringham, Halton District School Board
fotheringhas@hdsb.ca

In August 2020, rather than to try to simultaneously juggle both the teaching of students online as well as face-to-face, I decided to focus my efforts on doing online teaching exclusively for the school year. It seemed like a better idea than the alternative, as our school board (HDSB) has expected teachers to teach to students online and face-to-face simultaneously.

This seemed like a genuinely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attempt something creative as well as to endeavor to solve the teaching requirement of the foreseeable future.

After months of experimenting with various settings, a solution presented itself that would allow me to superimpose my image onto a screen. This method worked with all video conferencing software such as Brightspace's Virtual Classroom, Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, etc. In this article, I will show you the physical setup of my virtual classroom, as well as the free software used to superimpose my webcam over my virtual blackboard. Read More...

# Cognitive Apprenticeship, Problem Solving, and Online Learning

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

Enter the Workshop
Let's help our students improve their problem-solving abilities by borrowing an educational idea from long ago. There was a time when learning a complex skill or craft involved years of work as an apprentice in the workshop of an expert. Imagine that we are a young apprentice learning the craft of making shoes.
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Our first tasks might be very simple: putting the last tacks in a sole; lacing up the shoe; or adding the final polish. As our skills develop, we are given more complex and challenging tasks and construct more of the shoe until eventually we make our own from start to finish. There are two features of this mode of learning that are useful to emulate in our physics classes: the tasks given to the apprentice are usually meaningful because they help the expert and are important to the success of the workshop as an enterprise; and the apprentice receives rich continuous feedback that is mostly self-generated because she is able to compare her work against that of more experienced people. Read More...

# The Effects of the COVID-19 Shutdown on Graduating Grade 12 Students’ Physics Studies

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

# The Science of Group Work

Chris Meyer
President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Hybrid Teacher-Coach for Science, Toronto District School Board
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Who really likes group work? You know, like when your admin groups the staff at meetings to work on exciting, meaningful tasks? Many students grumble and resent group work, some of them knowing that they will have to pull the full weight of their team. There is a good chance that you did totally fine at school without much meaningful group work, so why bother, right? The reality is that group work is often organized poorly or haphazardly, making for an unsatisfying experience. However, when done well, group work is the most effective learning environment for the vast majority of students. Education research has compared the learning outcomes of many different learning environments and the ones that consistently come out on top are those that deeply integrate group learning. If you haven’t been a fan of group work in the past, I encourage you to read on! We will explore how the brain works, how group work helps it, and share some tips that will hopefully encourage you to look at group work in a new light. Read More...

# Demonstrating Diversity in Physics Content Videos

Roberta Tevlin, teacher at Danforth CTI
roberta@tevlin.ca

I like to use videos that are just a few minutes long in my classes. I use them to supplement the hands-on activities and show physics that is too dangerous, difficult or expensive to do in the classroom. However, I recently noticed that almost all of the videos I use are hosted by people who are white and male. This reinforces a pervasive stereotype about what sorts of people do physics — which is not a message that I want my students to receive.

I went on a hunt for videos that could change that perception and I have put together a spreadsheet of what I have found so far. Read More...

# Increasing the Gender Diversity in Lecture Content

Sara Cormier, Instructional Assistant, McMaster University
cormiesl@mcmaster.ca

At the 2018 OAPT Conference held at IQC, University of Waterloo, I had a very lovely, inspiring conversation with Roberta Tevlin. As a side note, I always have productive chats at the OAPT conference with a variety of people (this is a shameless plug to encourage everyone to register for the 2020 OAPT conference at McMaster. It was during this conversation that we chatted about how to increase the diversity of the examples we share in class. Afterwards Roberta spearheaded the idea to create a resource to share with everyone that compiles diverse examples of physicists. She pulled Michelle Lee, Sara Naudts and me in to help. The resource is really great and well laid out. I am supremely impressed with it (I had only a small contribution in creating the resource) and have used it to increase the diversity in my own teaching which I describe below. To learn more and use this great resource yourself, I encourage you to read another OAPT article (after you finish reading this one, of course), written by Roberta. You are also welcome to use any of the examples I’ve used below. Read More...

# Shining the Light on Grade 10 Optics

Vice President of Teaching and Learning, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Department Head of Science, Assumption College Catholic High School

This article is the first in a two-part series surrounding the development of an inquiry-based optics unit for grade 10 Science. The focus of this first article is to provide the reasoning why inquiry-based optics is needed in Science 10 and some of the important ideas that I introduce to help battle the preconceptions students hold.

I taught Science 10 for the first time in a while last year, and I have it again this year (by request). After changing the way I taught Physics 11 and 12 to a more inquiry-based style, I decided to do something similar with Science 10. This in turn led me down a path towards more effectively introducing optics to my students. In speaking with other teachers, I quickly found that the simplicity of the mathematics in the optics unit can often mask serious conceptual difficulties. I began to look at what Physics Education Research had to say about the common conceptual misunderstandings and came across the following series of questions asked by Goldberg and McDermott in their 1987 paper [1].    Read More...

# The Light that Burns Brightest

Chris Meyer
President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Hybrid Teacher-Coach for Science, Toronto District School Board
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

I have a question for you to think about, which I have chosen for two reasons: first, it is about electric circuits, which are fun; second, answering this question well requires thinking carefully about how we describe circuits. If you work through it carefully, you should discover one important reason why many students and teachers get tripped up when thinking about electric circuits. Now, I don’t want you getting bogged down in the weeds on this, so let’s start by assuming the devices are ohmic, meaning they faithfully obeys Ohm’s law. My question is this:

Which bulb would be brighter: a 10 Ω bulb or a 20 Ω bulb?

Take a few minutes to think about this question. What assumptions are you making about the circuit in which this bulb is found? Can you think of an example where either answer is the correct one? Keep thinking! And when you are ready for the full discussion, read on! Read More...

# A New Look at Newton’s Laws of Motion

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher at Danforth CTI
roberta@tevlin.ca

One of the standard parts of an introductory physics course is a study of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. They are part of the Ontario curriculum for grade 11 physics and most teachers would agree that they are essential. Chris Meyer has presented an improved way to teach the three laws of motion that will deepen student understanding: Teaching Forces I and Teaching Forces II.

In this article, I hope to reinforce Chris’ approach with a look at how the history of these three laws is wrongly presented. Read More...

# Quick Guide for Teaching Physics: Forces

Chris Meyer
President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Hybrid Teacher-Coach for Science, Toronto District School Board
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Welcome to part three of my “Quick Guide” series! We have dealt with the introduction to our physics course and the motion unit, which means it is time to tackle the topic of forces. There are many tips and tricks I have come across in physics education research and from refining my own practice that I would like to share with you, so read on! My challenge for you is to choose at least one tip from the list below to try out this year during your unit on forces. Read More...

# How Strong of a Vacuum Can You Make with Your Mouth?

Eric Haller, Occasional Secondary School Teacher, Peel District School Board
eric.haller@peelsb.com

This summer I had the opportunity to teach the grade 12 college-level physics course for the first time.

Due to the nature of summer school in my board, I was not given access to any of the school’s science equipment or textbooks; thus, I had to come up with plenty of simple, wallet-friendly, hands-on activities for the students. While I came up with a few good experiments and demonstrations, my favourite activity was an experiment to see how much my students ‘suck’; or in more professional and appropriate terms, how strong of a vacuum they could create with only their mouths. To measure this, all you need is a long straw and some water. Keep reading to find out how! Read More...

# Quick Guide for Teaching Physics: Motion

Chris Meyer
President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Hybrid Teacher-Coach for Science, Toronto District School Board
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Once classes have settled down and our students are trained (see the Quick Guide for Introduction Lessons), we are now ready to focus on teaching some physics! The first unit often taught is motion, both in the grade 11 and 12 courses. Most teachers feel pretty confident with this unit, but I hope to share some tips that might help you out in a few tricky spots. Read on! Read More...

# Equity Through Understanding: Electric Current & Potential Difference

Dave Doucette,OCT
Richmond Hill HS (retired)
STEAM Education Consultant, FAST Motion Studios, Toronto
doucettefamily@sympatico.ca

A 2016 paper1 surveying Purdue University electrical engineering undergraduates discovered “…seniors were more confused than novices about physical concepts such as charge, current and electrical field.” The study did not reveal precise reasons but did caution that well-intentioned but incorrect analogies “usually transform into foggy concepts students carry towards graduation (p4).” This echoed a 2008 engineering-science paper2 investigating obstacles to concept attainment of direct current. One barrier was weak modeling of the phenomenon, “…and identified the cause of this deficiency as lack of direct experience which can be remediated by creative instructional design.”

The actual mechanism of potential difference and direct current involves surface charge distribution. The challenge to develop this conceptual foundation is its invisible nature. Students cannot directly observe charge and ‘creative instructional design’ is needed to carefully scaffold inferences from static to moving charge. This paper suggests a series of activities to create the experiential background necessary for robust modelling of surface charge distribution. This conceptual foundation will be applied to series and parallel circuits to reinforce Kirchhoff’s laws. Read More...

# We Can Fix the Gender Imbalance in Physics

Chris Meyer, OAPT President
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

We Can Do Better
For many years I really didn’t know what to do about the obviously small proportion of female students in my school’s physics classes. At the time, I think I managed to convince myself that it wasn’t my problem or perhaps that it was beyond my ability to change. Fortunately, I was wrong on both counts. We can improve the gender balance in our physics classes using two strategies: encouraging grade 10 girls to take physics with presentations and an after-school activity; and encouraging grade 11 girls to continue with physics by directly addressing gender issues. Read More...

# Relativistic Mass or Rest Mass?

Philip Freeman, teacher at Richmond Secondary School (Richmond BC), Executive member BCAPT
freeman@sphericalcows.net

Most short introductions to special relativity include the idea that the relativistic mass of an object depends on its velocity (m = γm0). However, if you do much further reading in modern physics you will soon come across the idea that this is a bad concept. Why? What is wrong with the term ‘relativistic mass’? Some answers to this are physical, some ideological. Here is an overview of the case for and against relativistic mass. Read More...

# A Ghostly Hologram

Saara Naudts, Physics Teacher (Peel District School Board)
saara.naudts@icloud.com

When I was looking at a quick and fun activity to spark students’ interest in optics, I came across several "how to turn your smartphone into a 3D hologram" videos. It shows how when you place a small, clear pyramid on your phone's screen playing a specially created “hologram” video, the video appears floating above your phone within the pyramid.

Intrigued, I wondered if this was just another internet hoax as I couldn't understand how a hologram can be created using a smartphone, but a colleague overheard my questioning and affirmed she heard from a teacher's friend's friend that this works! Hmmm... I wasn't really oozing confidence after that answer, so I tried building one myself. Read More...

# Demonstrating Diversity in Science

Sara Cormier, Michelle Lee, Sarah Naudts, Roberta Tevlin

The four of us, like many of you, are concerned about how slowly the world of physics is moving towards diversity. Over the summer we put together some resources to make it easier to demonstrate to our students that there is a place for everyone in physics. Read More...

# Quick Guide for Teaching Physics: The Introductory Lessons

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers; Hybrid Teacher-Coach for Science, Toronto District School Board
chris@meyercreations.com

Hello everyone and welcome to the first installment of my quick guide for teaching physics! In this series, I will share with you my tips and strategies for teaching each major unit of the grade 11 and 12 physics courses. The ideas I share come from my 20+ years of teaching high school physics and mounds of physics education research. In addition to quick explanations of what to do and why, I will provide links to help you learn more or access resources. Read More...

# Improv-PHYS-ation: Cultivating Physics Learning Communities

Carolyn Sealfon, PhD, teacher at University of Toronto Department of Physics and researcher at the Ronin Institute
csealfon@physics.utoronto.ca

Nancy Watt, President, Nancy Watt Communications
nancy@nancywattcomm.com

We would all like to build classroom communities where our students flourish. We would like our students to develop their curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, persistence and resourcefulness. As science educators, what can we learn from the arts?

In improvisational theatre (“improv”), an “ensemble” is a group of people that work together cohesively and support each other to co-create a performance, recognizing and building upon each other’s individuality and contributions. For social learners, participation in an ensemble can foster our best learning. Can we create ensembles in our classrooms? Read More...

# Rosalind Franklin, DNA and the Interference of Light

Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter, Teacher at Danforth CTI
Roberta@tevlin.ca

We need to incorporate more diverse examples of scientists in our courses. Sara Cormier (Physics Instructor at McMaster University) and I are trying to develop resources that will help teachers to do this. (If you would like to be a part of this — please send me an email!)

I started to compile a data base of good examples when I found myself completely distracted by the work of Rosalind Franklin. Her work on the X-ray crystallography of DNA fits perfectly into a lesson about the interference of light! As well as showcasing an important female scientist, an examination of her work can deepen students’ understanding of interference patterns and it highlights a very important connection between biology, chemistry and physics. I found a couple of short videos and a really simple, cheap demo that shows why the interference pattern formed by DNA provides clear evidence of its helical structure! Read More...

# As, for, of… How to effectively assess collaborative learning

Vjera MioviÄ‡, Teacher at Silverthorn CI, OAPT Newsletter Volunteer
vjera.miovic@tdsb.on.ca

Imagine a test (and yes, it’s for marks!) during which everyone gets to see everyone else’s work, students can change, correct and update their product for a better mark, they consult each other and talk freely, and they even google information they need to solve a problem. What would you think of this assessment method if it was a physics class, or a math class? Wouldn’t that be considered cheating? And yet, my grade 9 tech students get evaluated exclusively this way. Read More...

# The Hole Truth: Why black holes aren’t what you’ve probably been told they are!

Philip Freeman, teacher at Richmond Secondary School (Richmond BC), Executive member BCAPT
freeman@sphericalcows.net

Black holes are big news these days. Unfortunately a significant number of statements in the press are not only mistaken but wrong in ways that obscure the truly interesting and important things we know about black holes. This article hopes to clarify a number of points about what black holes are and are not. Read More...

# The Story of Physics: Storytelling for High School Physics Teaching

Brian Lim, Teacher Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, Toronto
Brian.lim@tdsb.on.ca

“In the beginning…”

So starts one of the most famous and influential stories in Western civilization. Neil Degrasse Tyson continues the narrative this way:

“...sometime between 12 and 16 billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the point of a pin. Conditions were so hot, the basic forces of nature that collectively describe the universe were unified. For reasons unknown, this sub-pin-pint-size cosmos began to expand…” [1] Read More...

# Controlled Experiments with Three Factors in SPH4C Grade 12 College Physics

Tim McCarthy, Teacher, St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School
mccarthyt@hcdsb.org

Controlled experiments with three factors are a great way for physics students to practice identifying and testing factors that may affect a situation. They provide an excellent opportunity to practice the Scientific Investigation Skills found in Strand A. The students are provided with a situation, brainstorm possible factors that may affect the situation, reduce the list of factors to three that can be tested in the physics lab, develop hypotheses, design procedures to test the factors, test the factors, analyze the data, perform experimental error analysis, and draw conclusions on the effects the three factors have had on the original situation.

My struggle has been to find situations that easily fit this format and that also match the curriculum specific expectations. I have created one three-factor controlled experiment for each of the six units in my 12C physics course. The three-factor experiment in the first unit is used as assessment for learning (formative) to teach the students how to do a controlled experiment. The remaining five experiments are used as assessment of learning (summative). Simulations are used for some experiments as I do not have the necessary equipment to perform all them in the lab. Read More...

# Marking Tests Faster

Robert Prior, teacher at Agincourt CI
robert.prior@tdsb.on.ca

Many of us find marking tests a necessary chore. It has to be done, but it’s drudgery. This article describes how I use an app and the Ontario Achievement Charts to mark tests 2-3 times faster, as well as analyze the results. Read More...

# Intersection Traffic Signals: Coding to Control Series and Parallel Circuits in Grade 12 College Physics and Grade 11 University Physics

Tim McCarthy, Teacher, St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School, Oakville, ON
mccarthyt@hcdsb.org

Coding is an important skill for physics students to learn. Grade 12 College and Grade 11 University physics students must build series and parallel circuits, so why not use coding to control them and model an everyday, real-world situation? This can be done by first using TinkerCAD simulations, followed by construction of the simulation using real components; Arduino UNO R3 microcontroller boards, breadboards, LEDs, resistors and wires. Students have a high level of satisfaction as they complete a task that is brand new to most and learn skills that they are likely to need in their post-secondary education. Read More...

# Light ’Em Up!!! – Electric Greeting Cards for the Grade 9 Electricity unit

Andrew Moffat, Teacher Bishop Strachan School
amoffat@bss.on.ca

Students often struggle with the “Physics” unit in grade 9 Science — electricity. This can lead to a negative association with Physics and fewer students taking grade 11 and 12 Physics. At our school we have tried to make the electricity unit (and specifically the idea of circuits) more fun and engaging by having students create an electric greeting card consisting of LEDs and a battery. This can be done for around \$2 per student. Read More...

# Event Horizon Telescope Captures First-ever Image of a Black Hole

Damian Pope, PhD, Senior Manager Scientific Outreach, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
dpope@perimeterinstitute.ca

What is the Event Horizon Telescope?
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is a network of radio telescopes spread across the globe. By pooling data from each instrument, it achieves the same effective resolution as a dish the size of the entire planet!

What did it discover?
The EHT collaboration has just released the first event-horizon-scale images of M87*, a supermassive black hole at the centre of galaxy M87. The image shows an asymmetric ring of light surrounding a circular shadow. The ring of light is not the accretion disk, it is the footprint of the relativistic jet created by M87*. The asymmetry is evidence for the direction of the black hole’s spin. The size of the shadow reveals the mass of M87* which can then be used to calculate the radius of the event horizon. Note, the shadow is not the event horizon. Read More...

# Making Waves — a resource for exploring interference concepts

Philip Freeman, teacher at Richmond Secondary School (Richmond BC), Executive member BCAPT
freeman@sphericalcows.net

Waves are the source of many of the most beautiful and fascinating phenomena in physics, and a key idea underlying our deepest models of reality. The signature feature of waves is interference, and we frequently refer to interference effects to justify our claims about the wave nature of light (and electrons, and buckyballs, and…). This resource provides a new way to model waves that allows a more direct and intuition-building experience of interference. Read More...

# Building Confidence and Motivation with Short Building Projects

Margaret Scora, OAPT Past President,
mscora@sympatico.ca

Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter, teacher Danforth CTI
roberta@tevlin.ca

Mari-Ann Goettsch, teacher at Georgetown DHS
goettschm@hdsb.ca

Over the past couple of decades there has been a dramatic decline in students’ abilities to build and solve hands-on challenges. They are well versed in virtual reality but they don’t have much experience in how to work with materials. This is a shame. They are at a disadvantage when learning physics concepts and they will have huge problems with large projects like trebuchets or Rube-Goldberg machines. In this article we will describe a number of very short hands-on projects that provide opportunities to build stuff using cheap materials. Read More...

# Quizlet Live!

Steve Fotheringham, OAPT Treasurer
fotheringhams@hdsb.ca

Are you looking for a quick way to assess your class’ understanding of a topic, a way to easily integrate technology into your lessons or a way to break up the routine of your class? If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, let me introduce you to Quizlet. Read More...

# EdPuzzle

Adam Mills, OAPT Workshop Coordinator, Teacher - Assumption College Catholic High School

One tool that has really helped change the look of my Physics classroom is Edpuzzle. https://edpuzzle.com/ Edpuzzle is a website that allows teachers to embed questions within videos already created from YouTube or other sources. I find this tool particularly useful to help minimize the amount of direct instruction that I am giving my students in class. This allows my students more time to participate in richer educational strategies such as peer instruction, cooperative group problem solving and inquiry based learning. Read More...

# Stop Marking So Much!

Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter, teacher Danforth CTI
roberta@tevlin.ca

Marking is important, but it is boring and it takes you away from the more important aspects of teaching and life. Marking numerical problems is not too bad, but questions that require answers in sentences can be really time-consuming. A number of teachers have complained to me about how much time they spend marking and have asked me to pass on some of my techniques for reducing this. Read More...

# Learning the Current Electricity Ropes

Chris Meyer, President OAPT
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Electricity is almost always invisible; we never get to see electrons doing their thing. Only occasionally do we observe some by-product of electrical shenanigans like a spark, a glow, or a warm battery. This makes learning about electricity tough. As a result, many students (and even some teachers!) don’t develop a clear mental model representing how electrons move in a circuit. There are two important ideas are often missing from our mental models. Read More...

# College Physics: Electronic Literacy and Numeracy

Roberta Tevlin, Teacher Danforth CTI, OAPT Newsletter Editor
roberta@tevlin.ca

I am teaching the college physics course for the first time. My thirty years of teaching 12U physics and grade 9 science has not been a great guide for this. After two months, I am still struggling. Many of my lessons didn’t go the way I expected and some of them didn’t work at all!

Fortunately, two assignments did work well and in this article I will describe what I did and why I think they worked. Read More...

# Visualizing Static Electricity

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Static electricity might very well be the most important topic taught in high school science. Exploring static electricity teaches us how charged particles behave, which becomes the basis for understanding the structure of the atom, chemical reactions, the behaviour of complex biological molecules, cells, and even human thought. Static electricity is challenging to understand because it is invisible; we can’t see the particles doing their thing. As a result, we need to help students construct concrete, visual models of charged particles and provide students with visual ways of verifying their understanding of static electricity. Read More...

# Mirrors and Ray Diagrams App for Grade 10 Science

Matthew Craig, Teacher at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto
matt.simon.craig@gmail.com

I’ve been programming a suite of PC/MAC/Android simulations designed for teaching the Ontario curriculum for science and physics. Previously, I wrote about a Metal Leaf Electroscope Simulator.

In this article I am introducing a simulation I use to teach mirrors and ray diagrams in grade 10 optics. PhET has a simulation for refraction and one for lenses but there is nothing for mirrors, so I developed this simulation for grade 10 optics. Read More...

# The BIG 5 Challenge: A Rich Activity for the Motion Unit

Chris Meyer, President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

Here is a rich problem solving activity that I use when introducing the five equations of constant acceleration with my grade 11s.

Goal: I want to teach my students how to apply their new understanding to real physical situations and avoid plug’n’chug type questions. Read More...

# New Physics Videos from the University of Guelph

Joanne O’Meara, Professor and Associate Chair University of Guelph
omeara@uoguelph.ca
Orbax:
orbax@uoguelph.ca

As part of a recent endeavour of at the University of Guelph to flip the classroom, we have created a library of YouTube videos to accompany one of our first year courses: Physics for the Biological Sciences. Read More...

# Physics Experiment Videos and the Rotating Fish Tank

Eric Haller, Occasional Secondary School Teacher, Peel District School Board
rickyhaller@hotmail.com

In science, it’s always nice to be able to do a hands-on experiment. While there are many experiments you can do in class, there are some you can’t. Sometimes a particular experiment may require expensive equipment that you don’t have, may take too long to set up, may yield data that is too imprecise to analyze properly, or an experiment may be too dangerous for a classroom setting. At the latest annual OAPT conference Andrew Moffat showed us several websites with video libraries filled with experiments that I wouldn’t be able to recreate myself (skip to the end of this article for those links). To give you a taste of what kinds of videos are available, and how you might build a lesson around one of them for your students, I’d like to analyze one of my favourite videos from the collections. Read More...

# Accommodating Multiple Special Education Needs in One Classroom

Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, Editor OAPT Newsletter
roberta@tevlin.ca

Recently, I and all of the other teachers at my school spent an afternoon learning how to access the IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) of our students with special education needs. We were supposed to make notes from these extremely wordy documents and figure out how to implement the required accommodations in our classrooms. Half of our students have IEP’s and all around me, I heard teachers getting frustrated. How are you supposed to address all of these individual needs at the same time?

It isn’t as impossible as it may seem. Much can be accomplished by using the principal of Universal Design and by implementing teaching techniques from Physics Education Research. Read More...

# Explore Extrasolar Worlds: A hands-on activity for high school science and physics courses

Vjera MioviÄ‡

Have you ever wondered about life on other worlds? How about what planets outside our Solar System might look like? Do they have an atmosphere? Are they in the habitable zone for their star? Your students most certainly have — especially if they watched any space movies, comics or video games. In that case, leave the motions of our Sun, Moon and Earth behind and let your students go deeper and farther into space in search for exoplanets!

All you need for each station is a light bulb, a box and some play dough balls. Don’t let the cheap materials fool you – there are deep inquiry-based learning opportunities in this activity to satisfy the most curious of minds. Let’s begin. Read More...

# Spiraling 3U: Why I’m reshuffling the deck

Ashley McCarl Palmer, Teacher Waterloo DSB

There is a growing momentum in the elementary panel to spiral subjects, especially math, which is now flowing into secondary schools. My board has been pushing the spiral math method in the grade 9 and 10 applied courses for the past few years and last year in September our principal asked us to think about our courses to see if spiraling could be beneficial there as well. If I’m completely honest, I scoffed at the idea at first. Read More...

# The Future of Physics Teaching

Chris Meyer, President, OAPT
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

This will be my 21st year of teaching. I still enjoy my work, but I definitely feel older, crustier, and ... somewhat stumped. Over this time, I have learned a lot about teaching and made many changes. But as I refine my practice, I feel like I am not going in the direction I ought. As I learn more, I discover compelling teaching ideas that conflict with my current teaching practice and strain against the structure of our educational system. I will share with you what perplexes me, in the hope that you will find solutions that I cannot. These are my thoughts about the future of physics teaching. Read More...

# “Why Am I Not Getting This?” Feelings of Competence Among Young Women in Physics and Strategies to Strengthen These

Lindsay Mainhood, M.Ed., OCT, current research assistant at Queen’s University
lindsay.mainhood@queensu.ca

As a physics teacher, have you heard your students question their competence in physics? Have you heard them doubt their competence, or even express defeat in understanding physics? For reasons that may be obvious, such feelings among students can be adverse to their success and continuation in physics. Such feelings among young women can be understood as particularly detrimental on the journey toward gender equity in physics.

To explain why feeling competent is an important aspect of students’ success in physics, a research-based rationale is helpful to consider. Physics identity, a concept suggested by Hazari, Brewe, Goertzen, & Hodapp, can be described as the extent to which someone feels like they are a “physics person” (2017, p. 96). A strong physics identity is dependent on the development of four feelings (interest, competence, performance, and recognition). The importance of students’ development of physics identity is substantiated by the fact that physics identity has been shown to strongly predict students’ academic success in physics (Bliuc, Ellis, Goodyear, & Hendres, 2011) and career choice (Hazari, Sonnert, Sadler, & Shanahan, 2010). Feelings of competence, one component of physics identity, are the focus of the article. Competence can be defined as the feeling of being capable of understanding physics concepts.

In this article I share my research study’s findings related to young women’s feelings of competence during their high school physics education. This article’s aim, then, is to connect teachers to their students’ feelings of competence, or lack thereof, and to underscore the importance of helping students to feel competent for success and continuation in physics. Finally, I offer practical recommendations for teachers to help support feelings of competence in students in the physics classroom. Read More...

# The End of Conventional Current

Chris Meyer
President, Ontario Association of Physics Teachers

Time to Let Go
It’s time! Conventional current, the mysterious flow of positively charged particles in current electricity, has outlived its usefulness. This model hinders the development of clear physical understanding and places an additional, unnecessary conceptual burden on all our students. We ought to let the few students who pursue the electrical trades, electrical engineering, or physics deal with this awkward relic. Use electron current in high school. It’s time to let go of the ghosts from our disciplinary past and focus on improving our students’ learning. Read More...

# Hands-On Fields

Roberta Tevlin
Teacher at Danforth CTI, Manager OAPT Newsletter

The concept of fields is fundamental to our modern understanding of physics and the Ontario curriculum dedicates one of the five units in 12U physics to Gravitational, Electric and Magnetic Fields. I have struggled for many years to find ways to make this important but abstract concept more tangible to my students. Here is what I have come up with so far. Read More...

# LEDs: An alternative to traditional bulbs

David Gervais
STAO Safety Chair

The traditional incandescent bulbs used for teaching series and parallel circuits are rated for 3 V or 6 V. The problem is that many power supplies can generate 12 to 15 V. As a result, it is common to have many blown bulbs. With several sections teaching this unit, bulbs can quickly become in short supply. Each bulb replacement can cost \$1.00 each, and often are included in the general department order at the end of each semester. For those teachers using breadboards, traditional bulbs are also not easily adapted to fit into the small holes. LEDs are a great alternative for many reasons. Read More...

# Newton’s Cradle of Confusion

Timothy Sibbald, OCT, associate professor, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay.
timothys@nipissingu.ca

Tiberiu Veres, teacher candidate, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay.
tib.veres@gmail.com

Michael Anderson, teacher candidate, Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay.
mdanderson384@community.nipissingu.ca

Newton’s cradle is a classic physics ‘toy’ that is interpreted as showing the conservation of energy and momentum. In some respects it is too good at what it does. Students see predictability in the action that takes place and may not be driven to consider it more deeply. In essence, the instructional problem is that the cognitive dissonance that it causes can be explained fairly readily as conservation of momentum. However, like so many elements of physics, if it is tackled in the right way the richness of Newton’s cradle can be revealed.

# DIY Simulations

Tasha Richardson, OCT
tasha.richardson@tdsb.on.ca

Like many physics teachers in Ontario, I have used pre-boxed learning simulations: PhET, by University of Colorado; Gizmos, by ExploreLearning, and so on. But after having a conversation with a former student, I now have students build their own simulations. I like to ask former students what I could have done better to help prepare them for their post-secondary program. The student in question shared that his engineering program required students to run a simulation of any experiment they were intending to perform prior to doing so in the physical lab.

Note: This article is a summary of a session at the upcoming 2018 OAPT Conference. (Session B: Friday, May 11, 11:15 am) Read More...

# Making First Year Physics Fun

Ben Davis-Purcell, Instructional Assistant, McMaster University
davispbr@mcmaster.ca

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at McMaster University recently redesigned our first-year physics programme. The most important aspect of this project was the design and implementation of a new introductory physics course (Physics 1A03). Sara Cormier wrote about this course in detail last year, so I will just give a brief overview. Physics 1A03 sees an enrolment of about 1800 students each year, primarily by students who need one physics course to meet a degree requirement. Many students who take the course have never taken grade 12 physics or calculus, so we do not assume prior knowledge or use any calculus. Instead, the goal of the course is to give students an appreciation for physics and show its importance, focusing on concepts that relate to real-life problems. Most importantly, we want to show students that physics is not just valuable, but fun to understand and learn. In this article I will focus on some of my favourite ways in which we make Physics 1A03 fun. I will refer you to Sara’s article for a more detailed overview of the course. Read More...

# Physics in the news as a vector for classroom engagement

Kelly Meissner, BSc, MSc, BEd
Bluevale Collegiate Institute, WRDSB
kelly_meissner@wrdsb.ca

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. Read More...

# Improv for Scientists

Joanne M. O'Meara
Professor, Associate Chair (Undergraduate)
Department of Physics, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
omeara@uoguelph.ca

In order to give our physics majors more opportunities to develop their communication skills during their undergraduate degree, we now require them to take a one-semester Science Communications course that focuses on sharing their passion for physics with diverse audiences. This course is structured very differently from the rest of their core courses, with weekly discussion sessions in which students are expected to share their thoughts and opinions on assigned readings or viewings. Students also do at least three presentations during the term and participate in regular in-class group activities such as brainstorming a script/storyboard for a video on the Physics of the Winter Olympics. Read More...

# Metal Leaf Electroscope Simulator

Matthew Craig, Teacher at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto
matt.simon.craig@gmail.com

I’ve been programming a suite of PC/MAC/Android simulations designed for teaching the Ontario curriculum for science and physics. One topic for which I have never had an effective simulation is the metal-leaf electroscope for grade 9 science, and revisited briefly in grade 12 physics.

The electroscope simulation I have developed is a very simple simulation that can be used to show induced charge separation, charging by contact, charging by induction and grounding. Read More...

# A New Approach to Teaching Motion: Modeling, Metacognition, and Mathematical Sense-Making

Chris Meyer, York Mills C. I., Toronto
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

The Gold Medal Race
It was a thrill to watch the Toronto high school student Penny Oleksiak win gold in the pool at the Rio summer Olympics. Now my students and I watch her win every semester as part of our new motion unit for grade 11 physics. In this article, I will describe the new pedagogical ideas that I have built into this unit, starting with Penny Oleksiak. Penny’s outstanding performance is a great example for physics students because: she’s awesome, she’s female, she’s still in high school, and it draws students into a real application of what they learn: sport science.
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Alasdair Paterson, Teacher at White Oaks Secondary School
Paterson@hdsb.ca

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...

# Integrating Google Quizzes Into Your Teaching Practice

Steve Fotheringham, OAPT Exhibit Hall Coordinator, Teacher Oakville Trafalgar High School
Fotheringham@hdsb.ca

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...

# Collaborative Group Problem Solving (Part 2)

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...

# Scrambled Science: A Writing and Thinking Activity

Roberta Tevlin, Manager OAPT Newsletter, teacher at Danforth CTI
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Using Math in the Physics Classroom Part I: Units and Conversions

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...

# Advanced Curve Fitting

Eric Haller, Secondary Short Term Occasional Teacher, Peel District School Board
rickyhaller@hotmail.com

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...

# Fostering Physics Identity to Support Young Women in Physics: A Focus on Interest

Lindsay Mainhood, OCT, recent M.Ed. graduate and current research assistant at Queen’s University.
lindsay.mainhood@queensu.ca

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...

# Schlieren Photography

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.

# Harnessing Emotions to Help Students Learn

Presented at the 2017 OAPT Conference, York University
Chris Meyer, teacher York Mills CI

# Build an Arcade Game — A STEM Project

Nassi Rafiee, teacher Toronto DSB
Nassi.rafiee@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Solving the Math Teaching Problem

Chris Meyer

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...

# Teaching Chris’ stuff without being Chris Meyer

Milica Rakic, Teacher at Walkerville Collegiate Institute, Windsor, ON
mica@opusteno.com

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...

# TRAPPIST-1: Planetary System/Rock Band

Matt Russo, post-doctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA)
mrusso@cita.utoronto.ca

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...

# Spring Surprise: Projectile Motion made Fun, Mathematical and Real!

Roberta Tevlin, Editor, OAPT Newsletter
Roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca
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...

# Collaborative Group Problem Solving (Part 1)

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...

# Physics Camp Summer 2017

Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Forensic Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

A Practical Experiment For Learning Kinematics and Other STEM Concepts

Dr. Theresa Stotesbury, Research and Product Development, Trent University
theresastotes@trentu.ca

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...

# The Physics of Stunt Action Field Trip

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...

# Assessment is Learning

A Workshop at the OAPT Conference Workshop, Saturday, May 13
Chris Meyer

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...

# Good Things Happen in an Affective Classroom

Christine Hudecki, Teacher our Lady of Lourdes Catholic HS
Christine.hudecki@wellingtoncdsb.ca

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...

# Scientific Teaching

Keynote Address from the TDSB Eureka! Conference 2017

Chris Meyer, OAPT VP teaching and learning, Assistant Curriculum Leader York Mills C. I.
chris_meyer1@sympatico.ca

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...

# A Simple Vector Development of Centripetal Acceleration

Dave Doucette, OAPT Vice-President
doucettefamily@sympatico.ca

While teaching uniform circular motion in high school, I struggled with developing the ac = v2/r 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...

# The Intersection of Science and Small Contractor House Construction

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...

# Webinars and Video Calls in the Classroom

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...

# New Recommendations for the Safe Use of Laser Pointers

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...

# The Power of Quiet

Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, editor OAPT Newsletter roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Simplifying Instructions to Unleash the Power of Memory

by Tim Langford
tim.langford@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Blended Learning in a Large University Classroom

Sara Cormier, Instructional Assistant, McMaster University
cormiesl@mcmaster.ca

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...

# Improving Writing and Thinking in Physics: Writing with the 4 Cs

Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, editor OAPT Newsletter roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca
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...

# Assessment for Learning: The Check Up

Ryan Thompson, OAPT Treasurer, Physics Teacher Newmarket HS
superryanthompson@gmail.com

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...

# Why is STEM Important to Physics?

Dave Doucette, OAPT Vice-President
doucettefamily@sympatico.ca

Lisa Lim-Cole OAPT Past President
l.limcole@gmail.com

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...

# Bringing the Wonder of Discovery Back into the Classroom

Christine Hudecki, Teacher Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School
Christine.hudecki@wellingtoncdsb.ca

The grade 11 and 12 physics curriculum, I find, is heavy with concepts and formulas. Every day or every other day a new idea is presented, different formulas introduced and a fresh set of problems need to be solved. One of the reasons I liked science and enjoy teaching science is that it is a ‘doing’ subject. It has the potential to get students out of textbooks and in front of equipment. They can learn skills and exercise their problem solving abilities.

In effort to put more ‘doing’ into the grade 12 Light unit, I looked at the polarization lessons. There are some strange things that happen with polarizing filters and most often I would have the students play with the filters after we learned the concept of polarization. It occurred to me that I should flip this order. Read More...

# Introducing an Interdisciplinary Course (IDC) at Your School

Steve Fotheringham, OAPT Exhibit Hall Coordinator, Teacher Oakville Trafalgar High School
fotheringhas@hdsb.ca

Have you ever looked at your schools’ course offerings and noticed that some need is not being met? Perhaps the course selection for your applied-level learner is uninspired or there are no elective courses that encourage students to apply their imagination or creativity. Perhaps, what you are looking for does not exist on the list of courses in Ontario.

I’ve had this thought many times and have since had the privilege of introducing two new courses to my school — “Engineering Design” and “Leadership”. Both made use of the incredibly flexible IDC course code.

The purpose of this article is to share with you a few of the lessons (in no particular order) that I have learned along the way which in turn may help you introduce a new course in your school. Read More...

# Rockets: A Beginners Guide Part 3

John Berrigan, Teacher Oakville Trafalger H.S.
berriganj@hdsb.ca

In the previous article we found the main factors that determine the thrust of a rocket engine. We rearranged the formula and determined the Impulse of the formula for rockets. With Elon Musk discussing his Mars rocket last week, http://www.spacex.com/mars, now is a good time to discuss how Impulse can be used to eventually determine the efficiency of a rocket engine. Read More...

# Affective Physics

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca
Edited by Tim Langford

The theme of the 2017 OAPT conference is Affective Physics. This theme signals our recognition that physics teachers need to pay more attention to the emotional domain of learning. There is a growing realization that feelings have a huge influence on student motivation, engagement, deep learning and choice of study. It may also be a key to influencing more women to choose STEM. Read More...

# Gender in Ontario Physics Classrooms

John Caranci, Lecturer in Physics and Chemistry Teaching, C.T.L., Ontario Institute for Studies in Education University of Toronto
john.caranci@utoronto.ca

What does the gender balance in high school physics look like in Ontario? According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, 7,590 women earned a grade-12 physics credit in 2005/6 and nine years later there were 9,252. That is a 24% increase! At first glance it looks great. However, the increase for men was close to the same and from 2005 to 2015 the percentage of grade 12 credits in physics earned by women has remained steady at 31 ± 1 %. The good news is that while school population has decreased, the number of physics credits has risen from 23,542 to 25,589. The bad news is that the gender imbalance has not changed. Read More...

# GIFs in the Classroom

Eric Haller, OCT
rickyhaller@hotmail.com

It’s autumn, and maybe you’re looking for a new way to impress your physics students this semester. I find it easy to amaze my class by using various forms of technology in my lessons. Often our students don’t realize how tech savvy physicists need to be, picturing us using chalkboards to give lectures and not using supercomputers at CERN or developing video games which use physics simulations. Ok maybe I’ve never been to CERN or made a video game, but I can make my own GIFs. In this article I’m going to show you some GIFs you can use in your lessons, and also teach you how to make your own GIFs. Read More...

# Doing a 180 on the issue of cell phones

Christine Hudecki , Teacher Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School
christine.hudecki@wellingtoncdsb.ca

“Phones are a distraction”. “Teens don’t have the self-discipline to have a phone in class”. “It’s best to 100% ban the cell phones from the classroom”.

That was my attitude for many years. Ten years ago when I started teaching high school, there were only 1 or 2 students in each class with a mobile phone. Now it’s 1 or 2 students in each class that do not have a phone. Ten years ago cellular phones could make voice calls and send text messages. Now standard software and free apps enable students to do a wide range of useful activities: take pictures, record voices, capture short videos, set up a calendar, plan/manage their time, set up reminders and alarms, create to-do lists, do math calculations, check current events and of course, snapchat and Instagram their friends. I decided to start my new school year with the goal of frequently integrating the use of smart phones into my grade 10 science and grade 11 physics lessons in meaningful ways. Read More...

# Rockets: A Beginners Guide Part 2

John Berrigan, Teacher Oakville Trafalger H.S.
berriganj@hdsb.ca

In the previous article we learnt how to find the largest possible delta-V that a rocket can experience. In this article, we are going to find the thrust of a rocket by using the fundamentals of conservation of momentum. This will be similar to what we did in the last article, however this time we will use variables instead specific masses and velocities. Furthermore, the cart is now a rocket, as this is rocket science! Read More...

# Cheap and Safe Solar Observing for Grade 9 Astronomy

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca
Edited by Tim Langford

It is difficult to get students to make astronomical observations when you live in a large city with lots of light pollution. However, there is one object that all of your students have seen, but probably not observed carefully — the Sun! I start my grade 9 astronomy unit by having my students observe the shadows formed by Sun. Read More...

# A Browser-Based No-Fuss Gravitation Simulator

Michel Enns, Teacher Runnymede CI
Michel.enns@tdsb.on.ca

I have been frustrated with gravitation simulators over the years because they stop working when the computers are updated. To avoid this, I have made one that is browser-based and will run on any device. You can find it at www3.sympatico.ca/michael.enns. One non-standard thing that it can do is simulate the formation of a solar system with a thousand random masses. Read More...

# The NEW OAPT Newsletter and You

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

In the spring of 2015, Robert Prior brought the newsletter into its new responsive and accessible format and in August Roberta Tevlin signed on as editor. In the last ten months, there have been 37 articles from 18 different authors as well as many timely announcements. Thank you to all our wonderful authors. There is no Newsletter without you!

You probably missed a lot of these articles during the busy teaching year. It is easy to catch up on these as part of your summer reading. Read More...

# Rockets: A Beginners Guide Part 1

John Berrigan, Teacher Oakville Trafalger H.S.
berriganj@hdsb.ca

Interest in rockets is skyrocketing due to the recent successes of SpaceX and Blue Origin, two private companies developing spaceflight. This is an ideal time to introduce students to the physics behind rockets which are an exciting illustration of the conservation of momentum and relative motion.   Read More...

# Notes from the CAP Congress June 12-17, 2016

Richard Taylor, Merivale High School, Ottawa, CAP Representative
richard@teya.ca

Physics is happening in Canada, and this year the place to see it all is Ottawa. I was at the annual Congress of the Canadian Association of Physicists. Recognizing the importance of inspiring young people, there was a special day for high school teachers on June 14. Next year the CAP Congress will be at Queen’s University in Kingston from May 29 to June 2. Don’t miss it! Read More...

# Demonstrating Polarized Interference

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
Rolly Meisel, OAPT Photographer
roberta.tevlin@rdsb.on.ca

The interference of light is a very important concept in senior high school physics and has been for a long time. The polarization of light used to be a minor topic but has become more and more important over the last couple of decades because of its use in LCD screens and 3-D movies and because it is possible to get a cheap class set of polarized filters. This article describes a demonstration that combines polarization and interference. Read More...

# Diffraction and Resolution

Phillip Freeman, Teacher, Richmond Secondary School, Richmond, B.C., Executive Member at Large BCAPT
freeman@sphericalcows.net

The diffraction of light limits the resolution of optical systems. This is relevant in a number of real world cases, from the reason you can’t actually zoom in infinitely to read the license plate of the get-away car on the crime drama, to the limit to how small an insect a bat can ‘see’ with echolocation to the current plans for the Event Horizon Telescope. It is possible to observe single slit diffraction and resolution directly with very simple equipment. Read More...

# Building a Michelson Interferometer, Part II

Richard Taylor, Merivale High School, Ottawa
mrtaylorspace.wordpress.com)
richard@teya.ca

In the last episode, I had received the main parts of a Michelson Interferometer (the mirrors) and had roughly set them up using Lego stands. In the past couple of weeks I have been working on making a more stable and adjustable platform for this interferometer. Read More...

# Group Work Tests for Context-Rich Problems

Chris Meyer, OAPT VP Teaching and Learning, Assistant Curriculum Leader York Mills C. I.
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

The group work test is an assessment strategy that promotes higher-order thinking skills for solving context-rich problems. With this format, teachers are able to pose challenging, nuanced questions on a test, while providing the support weaker students need to get started and show their understanding. The test begins with a group discussion phase, when students are given a “number-free” version of the problem. This phase allows students to digest the story-like problem, explore solution ideas and alleviate some test anxiety. After ten to fifteen minutes of discussion, students inform the instructor of their readiness for the individual part of the test. What follows next is a pedagogical phase change from lively group discussion to quiet individual work1. The group work test is a natural continuation of the group work in our daily physics classes and helps reinforce the importance of collaboration. This method has met with success at York Mills Collegiate Institute, in Toronto, Ontario, where it has been used consistently for unit tests and the final exam of the grade 12 university preparation physics course. Read More...

# Building a Michelson Interferometer

Richard Taylor, Merivale High School, Ottawa
mrtaylorspace.wordpress.com)
richard@teya.ca

My school has had a Michelson Interferometer for many years, and I always show it to my grade 12 students to help explain the Michelson-Morley experiment - the one that showed that the speed of light does not depend on the motion of the observer. I showed this interferometer to some other Physics teachers on the February 2016 PD day in Ottawa. They were very interested and wanted to show their students. So I thought I would find out if I could build a similar and very inexpensive interferometer. Read More...

# Lasers: A Solution looking for a Problem

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
Roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca
Edited by Margaret Scora

Lasers are quantum light sources and they are everywhere. But what is quantum about them? The PhET simulation is a great tool to give students a feel for the quantum process called stimulated emission. Read More...

# Let Your Grade 12 Students Leave High School Thinking Modern Physics is Fun…

Sandy Evans, Northview Heights Secondary School
Sandy.evans@tdsb.on.ca

I used to have our Grade 12 Physics students write a research paper on a Modern Physics topic; however this year I decided to let them do something more creative. They ended up really having fun with the assignment and it was A LOT more fun to mark than 50 essays. They were told about this assignment and their Rube Goldberg Build assignment at the beginning of the semester but the Modern Physics Creative Piece was not due until one week before exams. Read More...

# Helping Teacher Candidates

John Caranci, teacher Faculty of Education University of Toronto
John.Caranci@utoronto.ca

Usually I brief teacher candidates on what to expect when they go out to practicum. During the discussion I found that the candidates have a different perspective than experienced teachers like us. This year’s candidates have already completed a four-month practicum in November. Their experiences very widely but there were a few threads that I will mention. Read More...

# Gravity Waves: The Fast Track to the Best Resources

Margaret Scora, Mhona Russell, James Ball and Roberta Tevlin

The announcement that LIGO has detected gravity waves may have you scrambling to answer your student’s questions. This news connects to many topics in high school physics including waves and vibrations, interference of light, changing models of science and the analysis of data - especially the problem of signal to noise ratios. Many teaching resources have been suggested (listed at the bottom) and these have been examined to select which are the most useful for high school physics teachers. The selected videos are well-scaffolded and paced. They make good use of animations, physical models and analogies and showed a wide diversity in the people interviewed. Demos and activities were selected which require minimal prep time and cost for the teacher and which provide active-learning experiences for the student. Read More...

# Classrooms Driven by Questions: A 21st Century Approach to Learning

Glen Wagner, Teacher-in-Residence Perimeter Institute

“How are black holes created and do they die? What proof is there for the Big Bang? Will the Big Bang ever stop? Is ‘absolute nothing’ possible?” These are just a few of the many questions my students have asked and attempted to answer during their unit on modern physics. As teachers, I think we all like the idea that our students should be curious, to ask questions about things that interest them, things they really wonder about. Yet, most of our teaching practices rarely embed curiosity-driven questions formed by our students as a part of a strategic process toward learning. Read More...

# Physics On Ice: A Field Trip on Force and Motion

Margaret Scora, Teacher at M. Paul Dwyer CHS, Oshawa ON
Margaret.scora@dcdsb.ca

Taking a class to Wonderland™ to investigate force and motion can be an expensive and frustrating adventure. The local ice rink is probably only 15 minutes away for most of us, a lot cheaper, and you can be there and back in less than three hours with a whole lot of new experiences for your students to ponder and discuss. Read More...

# An Experiment Involving Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

James Ball, OAPT Membership Chair, Physics Teacher, John F. Ross C.V.I.
James.Ball@ugdsb.on.ca

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a very abstract concept for most high school students and teachers. This lab activity is a simple variation of a single slit diffraction experiment. It clearly shows that defining the location of a photon (by passing it through a slit) increases our uncertainty about its momentum. Read More...

# My Physics-Teaching Adventure in China

Eric Haller, Bond Schools International

My name is Eric Haller, and I’ve been teaching students the Ontario physics curriculum in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China for two and a half years now. If you asked me when I was in teacher’s college, “where will you be teaching next year”, I would never have answered it with “China”, yet here I am. The lack of jobs in Ontario (even for us physics teachers) is a major deterrent for staying in Canada. The offer of full-time work abroad, my own classes of students, and a lower cost of living were all enough to convince me to come here. If any of you are interested in going abroad like me, especially new teachers, then I’d like to take this chance to tell you a little bit about some of my own experiences that I’ve had during my time here. Read More...

# What’s up? The International Space Station!

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

Teaching astronomy in the middle of a big city can be very frustrating. Your students can observe the Sun, the Moon, a few stars and sometimes a couple of planets and that’s about it. Not quite! It turns out that you can also see the International Space Station! Read More...

# Watch your Language

Tim Langford, Teacher
timlangford08@gmail.com

The problems I mention in this article are not always major, but they seem to have an asymmetrical effect: it is mainly the weaker physics students, in my experience, who are thrown off by confusing or vague terminology or the teacher misspeaking. This anecdotal finding is corroborated by Hammer’s (1989) research with undergraduate physics students. There is also another issue: careless language leads to careless thinking, a type of thinking that will not get the student very far in the study of physics. Read More...

# Animating Graphs to Animate Discussions about Electrical Energy

Roberta Tevlin, Teacher at Danforth CTI
roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Four Cheers for the Holistic Demo

Gavin Kanowitz, Teacher at AY Jackson SS
gavin.kanowitz@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# How to use the OAPT Physics Contest

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Physics Teacher Danforth CTI
Roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# Using Concept Inventories to Improve Students’ Success

Saara Naudts, OAPT Contest Editor, Physics Teacher North Park SS
Sara.naudts@peelsb.com

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...

# New Statistics Feature for the OAPT Contest

Shawn Brooks, Contest Manager, Teacher at University of Toronto Schools
sbrooks@utschools.ca

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

# Energy and Motion Connections in a K’Nex™ Catapult

Margaret Scora, Teacher at Monsignor Paul Dwyer CHS
mscora@sympatico.ca

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
rickyhaller@hotmail.com

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.

# Pointers about Laser Safety

Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Physics Teacher Danforth CTI
Roberta.tevlin@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# The best physics teaching resource you didn’t know about

Roberta Tevlin, Danforth Collegiate, Past President of OAPT, Editor of OAPT Newsletter
roberta@tevlin.ca

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
christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

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...

# 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...
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