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Articles

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.EQN1 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
(see also
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
(see also
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
Read More...

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.
Read More...

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.

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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.
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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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