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Designing new advanced physics course and I could use your help

  1. Sep 9, 2011 #1
    I am a high school physics teacher in upstate NY. I am designing a new physics course and could use your help.

    I felt this forum was the best place for this post as the only other forum that may fit is the teacher sub forum, however, it appears to be little used and I would like input from anyone. ​

    Somewhere in the back of my mind I have thought about an advanced level physics class for high school students to be able to explore the world of physics through literature, historical works and moments of scientific discovery, and possibly through media sources such as documentaries, tv shows, and movies.

    The target population is for students which have completed and passed AP Physics. This class is designed to help spawn and foster deep scientific thought through classroom discussion and written essays.

    The class will be a full year half credit class. If you are not familiar with what that means, think of it as a half year, or semester class, taken throughout the year. For my school this would be one period, every other day. The class is designed to be taken in conjunction with other science classes not to replace them.

    The students that end up taking this class would have already had me once before and would be in there because they already have a passion for physics. As you can imagine they are full of questions about all of the awesome physics you see on tv and in books.

    My struggle is that I am having a hard time designing something that combines a high level of academic demand and fun.

    For example, I know I would love for the kids to read a book and then have a series of discussions on the book and the physics within, and then a follow up essay.

    Maybe we could watch a documentary and do the same.

    The closest thing I can relate this to is another class in our school, American Film and Lit. In that class they explore work of fill and literature that helped shape America.

    So... After that long explanation... What I am hoping from you fine folks:

    Have any of you taken a class that sounds similar to what I describe?

    Do you have any literature suggestions that would fit the bill? Media?

    Do you think a class of this description would seem like a class you would want to take?

    Do you have anything else you could add that would help?​

    I really just want to create a course for my eager physics students, so really any suggestions are welcomed!

    And yup - this is my first post! Thanks for reading.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2011 #2
    One of my humanities courses that I took my first year in college was on medieval engineering. We learned about interesting people and theories, how they stumbled onto various ideas and such. It was a really interesting course. There was essentially no math beyond the most basic algebra which was only used to explain small things, the focus of the course was on the ideas themselves and what other ideas they opened up.

    I think that a "history of physics" course with a little bit of rigor would be fantastic. Students could learn about discoveries, perhaps even re-create certain experiments, and discuss/perform the related math. Especially in physics, there are just so many interesting people that you could talk about.
  4. Sep 10, 2011 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Not exactly answering your questions, but partially related. Have you heard about Caveman chemistry?

    I think I remember similar concepts being discussed at CHEMED-L in the past, but I don't remember if any course was finally designed around these ideas.

    I wonder if asking students to read a whole book will work. Some excerpt perhaps, or a short story.
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