Ideas for Teaching Relativity to High School Kids

In summary, relativity is a theory about how the universe works. It is mainly about how different people see the same event differently because they are in different frames of reference.
  • #1
Luis Babboni
10
1
Hi!

I´m studying to be physics teacher for high school and being in the relativity course, next week we will have the opportunity to show to high school kids something about what relativity is about.

Any idea about what to show to them in 10 minutes?

Thanks!
 
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  • #2
Luis Babboni said:
Hi!

I´m studying to be physics teacher for high school and being in the relativity course, next week we will have the opportunity to show to high school kids something about what relativity is about.

Any idea about what to show to them in 10 minutes?

Thanks!
As relativity is mainly about the absence of a unique frame, I would choose the light clock to demonstrate what this means. That should take the ten minutes.

Another idea (plan B) is to describe the Michelson-Morley experiment. This anecdote here: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/science-jokes-p2.847743/page-31#post-6009757 could be an entry or a finish.

Plan C: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_August_21,_1914
 
  • #3
fresh_42 said:
As relativity is mainly about the absence of a unique frame, I would choose the light clock to demonstrate what this means. That should take the ten minutes.

Another idea (plan B) is to describe the Michelson-Morley experiment. This anecdote here: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/science-jokes-p2.847743/page-31#post-6009757 could be an entry or a finish.

Plan C: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_August_21,_1914

Thanks.

There is no "practical" experiment about relativity?
I think something about magnetism it is, but you need to explain first length contraction and there is not good reason to think it as a relativistic thing instead of classical magnetism idea.
 
  • #4
Luis Babboni said:
There is no "practical" experiment about relativity?

There are numerous YouTube videos where folks claim to nutshell relativity in some short amount of time. You might Google and watch some for ideas on approach.

I would definitely include a mention that GPS requires relativistic effects being accounted for in order to be accurate.

One thing that kept my interest early on was wanting to understand how two folks passing one another could each see the others clock moving slowly and both be correct. It took me (much) longer than 10 minutes to understand that, but having the conundrum introduced to me along with some discussion of easily understandable experimental evidence that relativity is confirmed and not just an abstract idea kept me coming back for more.

10 minutes to introduce relativity to a high school class sounds like a fun challenge - good luck!
 
  • #5
Do you have a Q&A period, and if so is it part of the ten-minute time budget?

You could start with Michaelson-Morley to support a proof by emphatic assertion (any ten-minute presentation is going to require at least one such proof) that the speed of light is the same for everyone. Follow that with the classic "if I'm moving at .5c and I shine a flashlight out front" paradox, resolve it with the relativistic velocity addition law, and one example (missile fired from supersonic jet fighter) of why we never notice.

That's somewhat off the beaten path for intro relativity discussions, but it has the advantage of being completely self-contained and fitting into ten minutes.
 
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  • #8
Thanks guys.

I googled without succes. I´ll see now those you posted.
Yes, if I receive a WOW! was enough no matter they do not understand completely the idea. But I need something that makes them really feels there exists something weird, not just my word saying time or lenghts are shorter for ones than for others.

I´ll write later after see those videos at least.
 
  • #9






I googled ‘relativity explained in 2 minutes’ and these came up. I haven’t watched them, just fwiw.
 
  • #10
Luis Babboni said:
Hi!

I´m studying to be physics teacher for high school and being in the relativity course, next week we will have the opportunity to show to high school kids something about what relativity is about.

Any idea about what to show to them in 10 minutes?

Thanks!
I would use the 10 minutes to explain that you can't learn anything in 10 minutes. And that if they want to tackle anything in life they need to be prepared to put in the time and effort.
 
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  • #11
PeroK said:
I would use the 10 minutes to explain that you can't learn anything in 10 minutes.
LOL :oldbiggrin:
 
  • #12
berkeman said:
LOL :oldbiggrin:

LOL! But I just said "show to", no "teach to" ;-)
 
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  • #13
Luis Babboni said:
Hi!

I´m studying to be physics teacher for high school and being in the relativity course, next week we will have the opportunity to show to high school kids something about what relativity is about.

Any idea about what to show to them in 10 minutes?

Thanks!

Do the demonstration where a magnet is moved into and out of a coil of wire, and a meter connected to the coil, shows that electricity flows in the coil. Then show the same effect by instead moving the coil. Prior to Einstein, those two were seen as separate effects, whereas Einstein showed that they are the same.
 
  • #14
Luis Babboni said:
Any idea about what to show to them in 10 minutes?
Thanks!
You could show them the videos in this message.
 

1. What is relativity and why is it important to teach it to high school students?

Relativity is a theory developed by Albert Einstein that explains how objects move and interact in space and time. It is important to teach it to high school students because it is one of the fundamental theories of modern physics and has many practical applications in technology and everyday life.

2. How can I make the concept of relativity easier for high school students to understand?

One way to make the concept of relativity easier for high school students to understand is to use real-life examples and analogies. For example, you can use the idea of a fast-moving train to explain how time and space are relative to an observer's perspective.

3. Are there any hands-on activities or experiments that can help students visualize relativity?

Yes, there are several hands-on activities and experiments that can help students visualize relativity. For instance, you can use a simple pendulum to demonstrate how time is affected by gravity, or use a mirror and a flashlight to demonstrate the bending of light in space.

4. What are some common misconceptions about relativity that students may have?

One common misconception about relativity is that it only applies to objects moving at very high speeds. In reality, the principles of relativity also apply to everyday objects and situations. Another misconception is that relativity is just a theory and not a proven fact, when in fact, it has been extensively tested and confirmed by experiments.

5. How can I incorporate technology into teaching relativity to high school students?

There are many ways to incorporate technology into teaching relativity to high school students. You can use interactive simulations, virtual reality experiences, or online videos and animations to help students visualize and understand the concepts. You can also have students use online calculators or computer programs to solve relativity equations and problems.

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