March 05, 2022 Filed in: Articles
Saara Naudts, Peel District School Board
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...
October 16, 2021 Filed in: Articles
Chris Meyer, OAPT Past President, TDSB hybrid teacher-coach
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...
September 22, 2021 Filed in: Articles
Joanne O’Meara, Professor, Department of Physics, University of Guelph
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...
June 08, 2019 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, Editor OAPT Newsletter, Teacher at Danforth CTI
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...
April 14, 2019 Filed in: Articles
Andrew Moffat, Teacher Bishop Strachan School
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...
April 06, 2019 Filed in: Articles
Philip Freeman, teacher at Richmond Secondary School (Richmond BC), Executive member BCAPT
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...
November 11, 2018 Filed in: Articles
Matthew Craig, Teacher at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto
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...
October 07, 2018 Filed in: Articles
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...
May 27, 2018 Filed in: Articles
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...
November 22, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, Manager OAPT Newsletter, teacher at Danforth CTI
Are you tired of reading answers from your students that just blather on and on about anything that is vaguely related to the question? It took me many years to realize that I needed to explicitly teach my students how to write a good answer. Dave Doucette’s workshops on giving students the H.O.T.S. (Higher Order Thinking Skills) started me on this path. Learning to write clearly also helps students to think clearly. In an earlier article, I presented an activity called Writing with the Four C’s
. This time I would like to present something I call “Scrambled Science”. Read More...
October 01, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Richard Taylor, Teacher Merivale High School, Ottawa
Just before the end of the last school year, I saw this video on the Veritasium YouTube channel. I found it fascinating that such a simple setup could highlight such small variations in refractive index. But is it really so simple to set up? Could this be done in the classroom? My summer project was to investigate Schlieren photography. Read More...
December 15, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Alasdair Paterson, Teacher at White Oaks Secondary School
Last spring, I took my students 2200 years back in time. My grade 8 students measured the size of the Earth using shadows — the technique first described by Eratosthenes. Read More...
February 23, 2017 Filed in: Articles
David Gervais, Chair STAO Safety Chair
STAO’s Safe on Science
booklet is a great resource for teachers and is used as the standard for safe practices by many school boards in Ontario. It presently states that only class 1 and 2 lasers should be used in the classroom. This bans almost all laser pointers from your classroom. A recent OAPT Newsletter article
questioned why class 3R lasers (most regular laser pointers) are not accepted. After carefully reviewing the literature and holding extensive discussions, STAO has decided that laser class 3R should be added for recommended use in schools. The Safe on Science
booklet is being revised and will be completed by March 31. This will be sent to school boards in the province. Read More...
January 26, 2017 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, teacher Danforth CTI, editor OAPT Newsletter
Edited by Tim Langford
Are you getting frustrated reading answers that ramble on and don’t make much sense? Does it look like your students are writing everything they know about the topic in the hope that some part of it answers the question? Writing with the 4 Cs is a teaching technique to improve writing and thinking. Read More...
December 24, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Christine Hudecki, Teacher Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School
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...
September 18, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
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...
June 10, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
Rolly Meisel, OAPT Photographer
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...
June 04, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Phillip Freeman, Teacher, Richmond Secondary School, Richmond, B.C., Executive Member at Large BCAPT
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...
May 20, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Richard Taylor, Merivale High School, Ottawa
(see also mrtaylorspace.wordpress.com)
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...
May 07, 2016 Filed in: Review
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
The double-slit experiment is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the wave nature of light and it is also the best place to start to explore the key concepts of quantum physics. By this point, most teachers in Ontario are familiar with the great, free teaching resource from The Perimeter Institute of Theoretical called The Challenge of Quantum Reality
. If you haven’t got yours yet, you should! Three short, on-line videos are now available as an addition to the resource. Read More...
April 22, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Richard Taylor, Merivale High School, Ottawa
(see also mrtaylorspace.wordpress.com)
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...
February 26, 2016 Filed in: Review
Richard Taylor, CAP Councillor for Affiliates, Teacher Merivale High School, Ottawa
The University of Ottawa’s Physics Department has initiated a lecture series they call “Eureka Talks”. The first of these talks was given Saturday January 30, 2016 by Sir John Pendry of Imperial College, London, on the topic of metamaterials and invisibility.
Sadly, I must inform you that Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak is still not available. Even worse, if Harry was invisible, he wouldn't be able to see anything — he’d be in total darkness, with all the light rays bent around him and none going into his eyes! Read More...
February 17, 2016 Filed in: Articles
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...
January 29, 2016 Filed in: Articles
James Ball, OAPT Membership Chair, Physics Teacher, John F. Ross C.V.I.
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...
September 25, 2015 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Newsletter Editor, Physics Teacher Danforth CTI
There is a lot of confusion about which lasers we can and should use in our classrooms. Lasers are classified by power, spread of beam and a variety of other properties. The lower the Class, the safer they are. Read More...
July 01, 2005 Filed in: Demo Corner
Dr. Eknath V. Marathé, St. Catharines, Ontario
Spectroscopy has contributed to our knowledge not only of Earth but also of the Sun, interstellar space, distant stars and galaxies. The subject of spectroscopy began in the year 1666 with the discovery by Newton that when the Sun’s rays are allowed to pass through a prism, they produced a band of colours which he called a spectrum. In 1802, William Hyde Wollaston, (1766 – 1828, English chemist and physicist) used a narrow slit as a secondary source of light and observed dark lines in the spectrum of sunlight. Wollaston thought that the dark lines were natural boundaries between various colours of the spectrum. Read More...
March 01, 1997 Filed in: Demo Corner
John Pitre, Department of Physics, University of Toronto
When polarized light is discussed, polarizing plastic sheet filters are always mentioned. During manufacture, this material which contains
long chain molecules is mechanically stretched into sheets resulting in the alignment of the molecules. Electrons can travel along the axis of the molecules but cannot jump from molecule to molecule. When light is incident on a polaroid sheet, the component of the electric field which is parallel to the axis of the long chain molecules causes the electrons to move, and that component is absorbed; the component which is perpendicular to the axis of the molecules is unaffected. Thus, polaroid sheets have a preferred direction, or transmission axis, which is perpendicular to the axis of the long chain molecules. Read More...
March 19, 2016 Filed in: Articles
Roberta Tevlin, OAPT Editor, Teacher Danforth CTI
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...
March 01, 1995 Filed in: Demo Corner
Alan Hirsch, Port Credit Secondary School
Having taught senior high school physics for more than 20 years, I had thought the chances of a student discovering something I hadn't seen before while performing a typical physics experiment were remote. Thus, when OAC student Karen Whiskin was performing measurements on the wavelengths of various colours of light and yelled out, "Hey sir, come and look at this!", I was not expecting to see anything new. To my surprise and joy, Karen's discovery was also a discovery for me. Using a single diffraction grating, Karen had observed the addition of light colours and had recognized that secondary light colours were being formed from primary light colours. Read More...
September 01, 1994 Filed in: Demo Corner
George Vanderkuur, Malvern Collegiate, Toronto
A laser, chalk dust and right-angle corner made of mirror tiles show the retro-reflection of light from a corner cube mirror. (Safety note: use a low-power laser beam and take care to avoid directing the beam into the audience.) Students will also enjoy looking into the mirror and observing that the image of their face (or open eye) is always in the corner. Try this with one eye closed. Read More...
January 01, 1994 Filed in: Demo Corner
Bill Konrad, Chatham Kent Secondary School
I am sure that, in the schools of Ontario, the range of equipment presently in place to demonstrate colour mixing varies all the way from ray boxes with colour filters to expensive projectors specifically designed for that topic. Many of these may be effective but frequently one finds that the resulting colour is not exactly what theory predicts. For example, a blue light, a green light, and a red light projected onto the same area of a white screen may produce a “yellow” white or a “greyish” white. The demonstration described below gives excellent results and, in keeping with current budget constraints, is very economical. To carry it out, proceed as follows. Read More...