Teacher-tested climate change lessons

August 26, 2010

I was excited to see this recent posting from my institution, CU Boulder. If you’re a teacher looking to teach climate change in the classroom, a group of scientists, science education researchers, and middle and high-school teachers have developed and refined a set of problem-based lessons: Visit them at LearnMoreAboutClimate.colorado.edu They say: The result is […]

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We say “pshaw” to learning styles

March 23, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very long time, but as any faithful readers might have noted, I’ve been a bit in-absentia for the past several months.   I was off busy making some money to support my blogging habit, but I’m happy to report that I’m back, and working on ramping up […]

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Electricity makes flowers grow

February 2, 2010

Here’s a wonderful tidbit from a book that every physics teacher should have — The Flying Circus of Physics.  My old mentor PD gave it to me with the inscription, “until I write my book of physics stories, this is the best collection of science stories in print.”  As much as I love Paul, I […]

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Hands-on class activities on the cell

January 12, 2010

Looking for some activities to jazz up your class lecture on the cell and biology?  Here are a few hands-on teaching activities for middle school or high school: Here are some cool cells to look at under a microscope: Cheek cells Onion cells Thin smears of ripe versus green banana, stained lightly with iodine.  Says […]

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How do I teach about climate change?

January 2, 2010

It seems to be in vogue to teach about climate change.  Thank god.  I mean, is there anything else more confusing nowadays?  Teaching students just to wade through the puddles of mud being slung across party lines is a message in media digestion in itself! Luckily there are many resources being developed to help educators […]

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Making light rays in the classroom

November 14, 2009

In optics experiments, you often need to create lines of light.  You can do this with light boxes, but they’re expensive, and tend to  have too many rays to be useful.  Laser light boxes are great, but again, spendy. One teacher recommends using laser levels. These are the things made to help you hang pictures […]

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Sustaining instructional reform (Blogging from the AAPT)

July 28, 2009

This session is about how some institutions have sustained change in their courses, and what are the central features of changes that stick:  Eugenia Etkina (Rutgers), Steven Pollock (CU Boulder), Charles Henderson (Western Michigan). The NSF will provide money to create reforms, but individual institutions have to figure out how to make them stick.  How […]

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Preparing Undergraduates for Graduate School (Blogging from the AAPT)

July 27, 2009

This session is about how we prepare our undergraduates for graduate school — what to consider, and how we’re doing. One thing to consider, in thinking about the goals of our undergraduate majors, is that we actually don’t want to prepare all of our undergraduates for graduate school.  Physics is a liberal arts degree, allowing […]

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Teaching in Urban Schools (Blogging from the AAPT)

July 27, 2009

Teaching in Urban Schools – Katya Denisova – Science Coordinator, Baltimore Public Schools. This was a talk about factors to consider when teaching science in schools with high poverty levels.  Baltimore has a large poverty rate (30% of kids under 18 live in poverty if I understood her statistic right, though that seems high), and […]

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How to raise tadpoles in the classroom

April 20, 2009

Here’s a problem most of us never have.  How do you raise tadpoles in the classroom without killing them off?  Which species are best?  And then what about the resulting frogs?  A teacher recently raised this on the Exploratorium teacher email list, and perhaps others can benefit from these words of accumulated wisdom. First, you […]

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Blogs on teaching and learning

March 24, 2009

As y’all know, I’m a big fan of the blogosphere.  I recently ran across a couple blogs that I thought others might be interested in. The Teaching Professor, by a retired professor of teaching and learning at Penn State (MaryEllen Weimer).  Very good posts, on topics that we often discuss, such as self-assessment, and whether […]

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Explanations are important

February 12, 2009

So try this.  Instead of trying to come up with the right answer (and rewarding that), require students to come up with 3 “crazy ideas” for what is happening .  A crazy idea (for the earlier experiment with the horizontal and vertical motion) could be that there’s a magnet in the cart.  Or that it […]

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The Last Straw (teaching science with soda straws!)

December 1, 2008

Despite my better judgment, I invite TI staff educator Eric Muller to do one more set of activities on my Teaching Tips podcast —several things you can do with soda straws.  Listen to the episode – The Last Straw. Holding Charge activity (PDF) More of Eric Muller’s activities

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The drama of the immune system

October 24, 2008

Hey guess what!  Science Teaching Tips was just highlighted in the Websights section of The Physics Teacher.   Woo hoo! I’ve got a new episode of  the podcast posted — The drama of the immune system. This is one of the favorites of our group at the Teacher Institute, and teachers are always asking Tory to […]

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A time for telling

October 10, 2008

“A Time for Telling” is the title of one of my favorite papers of Dan Schwartz (Professor of Education at Stanford). In it, he argues that lecture isn’t all bad. We complain that lecture (or “direct instruction” in ed-speak) doesn’t result in a lot of learning for our students. This has been shown again and […]

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Adventures of a new teacher

September 22, 2008

There’s always a lot to learn when you start teaching.  But this new teacher’s story was particularly striking to me.  When she just started teaching, she was fresh out of the Peace Corps in West Africa, and this left her little prepared to teach chemistry in a portable classroom with, among other things, no proper […]

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Electron band structure in Germanium, my ass

September 18, 2008

I didn’t come up with that title.  That’s the title of a lab report turned in by a disgruntled physics major after the obligatory upper-division laboratory.  It’s kinda famous in the physics circuit.  Read it.  It’s funny. Quotable quote: Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That’s bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself […]

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Nobody’s ever taught you anything

September 15, 2008

We remember these great teachers who have taught us so much about the world. But did they really? Some educators firmly believe that you can’t teach someone anything — rather, they have to learn it for themselves. A great teacher is someone who helps make that happen. A great teacher is a facilitator of learning […]

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The physics of baseball (and the bat marimba!)

September 11, 2008

The Exploratorium has done a lot of fun stuff with the physics of baseball, including a whole website devoted to the science of baseball (where’s the sweet spot on the bat? What are baseballs made of?). One of our senior artists, Dave Barker, has also created the Bat Marimba (photo above). I’ve just posted a […]

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If you could hop like a frog…

August 3, 2008

It can be tough to get K-8 students engaged in math, or to really get across the idea of size and scale.  My latest podcast features a talk by math enthusiast David Schwartz talking about some real-world size comparisons that can make size and scale relevant to children’s lives.  Give it a listen! David Schwartz’s […]

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