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Why Teach Bohr Diagrams?

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

The stock and trade of the science teacher is the Bohr diagram. Ask a random person off the street what an atom looks like and they will describe a Bohr diagram (well, actually something similar but with ovals — just Google “atom”). But is the Bohr diagram a useful representation of the atom to teach students? In this article we will explore the conceptual foundations of the Bohr diagram and my proposed alternatives. Along the way, we will delve into the science of the atom and flesh out some challenging ideas. Now, normally when I write an article, I share well-rehearsed practices from my classroom. This article will be different! Here I share my musings as an attempt to define this problem and layout possible solutions. I'll also let you in on a little secret of mine: when I want to learn more about something, I choose to write an article about it! Since this is an exploration, I would be very happy to hear your thoughts on these ideas. I am no chemist and I recognize that I am venturing into dangerous terrain. Read on! Read More...

Call for Articles

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

It’s the start of another school year and the OAPT is once again looking for submissions for the newsletter. The newsletter is made possible by volunteers who contribute their thoughts and ideas for others to use in their classrooms. Many of our writers are Ontario high school teachers, however some of our writers teach in university, live abroad, have retired, or have even left the teaching profession for some other career that involves physics. We have numerous writers who pen something for us regularly, but we are always on the lookout for new writers as well (writing for us looks great on a resume). With COVID precautions being relaxed and hybrid classes in the rear-view mirror for most of us, some of you may need inspiration for what to write an article about this year. Fear not, remember that we are facing the destreaming of grade 9 science, so articles pertaining to destreaming or the teaching of physics content in the new science course would be beneficial to our readership. For further inspiration, here are some other possible topics for articles: Read More...

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 25, 2022 OAPT (Ontario Association of Physics Teachers) Physics Contest

The annual online physics contest open to ALL Grade 11 and 12 physics students will be occurring on May 25th. The contest is one hour long and is free! The contest will be open to BOTH Grade 11 AND Grade 12 students due to the generous support of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto. All physics teachers are encouraged to have their students enroll. Please remind students that it is intended to be a FUN contest and that it cannot impact their mark so that they do not feel intimidated to participate. 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...
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