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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...

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...

Rich Problem-Solving Challenges for Virtual Students

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

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...

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...

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...

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.

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...

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

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...

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...

Feel the energy: a unified framework for teaching energy

Chris Meyer, OAPT VP teaching and learning, Assistant curriculum leader York Mills C. I.
Christopher.meyer@tdsb.on.ca

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

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.

D-Ball

Diana Hall, Bell High School, Nepean, Ontario
Diana_Hall@ocdsb.edu.on.ca

This is a very popular game I have played with my OAC physics class. It incorporates the concepts of conservation of energy and projectile motion. Read More...

Ball and Ramp Races

John Childs, Grenville Christian College, Brockville
jchilds@grenvillecc.ca

This is a good exercise to use after you’ve done kinematics, dynamics, and energy. We all talk about the kinetic and potential energy of roller coasters and their speeds, and the demonstration will let your students apply their critical thinking skills to this kind of situation. Be sure to have your students examine the setup and predict the outcome, before you run the demo. The question is: “Which ball gets to the end of the ramp first?” 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...

The Thermobile and Icemobile

Peter Levan, Lockerby Composite School, Sudbury

At last year’s conference in Sudbury, Al Hirsch demonstrated his icemobile1 and I mentioned the action of a thermobile1. Some people were interested in more explanation and information on these little toys and the physics behind them. Read More...