Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our physics curriculum - modeling

I could list the myriad advantages of a Modeling-based Physics class over a traditional one, but one central advantage is enough for me: kids look forward to watching experiments and love experimenting on their own!

The link above takes you to a list of resources on modeling - here's the basic gist.

The Model Experiment

1. You begin the lab with a pre-lab discussion.  You show the students the basic components of the experiment and they hypothesize what will happen and what will effect the outcome of the experiment.  It is important to note and incorporate every idea that is suggested since these will be the best tools the kids have to imagine new experiments.

2. Run the actual experiment.  Document, analyze, combine, synthesize - carry out whatever the experiment demands.

3. Discussion - What did we learn from the experiment, what ideas from our pre-lab discussion proved true, what ideas proved to be false and what ideas should we continue to explore?


The Student Experiment

1. Form groups that will ultimately explore the same issue which the model experiment explores.  Have students brainstorm and come up with some experiments of their own, focusing on what concepts they are testing in each experiment.  The teacher's role at this stage is to constantly question the assumptions of the students to increase the scope of the experiment.  The idea is for the teacher to act as a guide to content and concepts that the students could be exploring - and make that available to them - without telling them what to think or what specifically to explore.

2. The students run their own experiments.  The experiments should explore something conceptually similar to the model experiment in different ways that the students imagine could be interesting.  The students will share their experiments and results with the rest of the class in a discussion on what has been learned during this unit.

3. The students can then be asked to solve real world problems using the concepts and content that they've explored during the modeled experiment and their own.  This ensures both that they've learned the material and that they could apply the material to something useful to them going forward.

Lab reports and memorization of the periodic table haven't gotten us very far as recent testing by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) has shown.

Modeling actually works. Its better at helping students retain concepts, it creates a faster pace and dynamic lab classroom, and...our kids are excited about physics!

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I wanted to pop in quick and say thanks for checking out my blog and commenting earlier! My kids went to Montessori preschool (but now "older kids" Montessoris around). LOVE the philosophy!