Day 142 – Family Matters

No photo today. I got a call at 8:30am from my daughter. She was home sick and needed someone to be with her. It was a bit of a scramble but our school’s admin team and teacher staff stepped up and made sure that my classes were covered while I went home.  We tried to get a TOC but it was a very late call out and with the physics classes it can be harder to find someone to come in.

Day 140 – Questions about Space


Science 9 – For our first day about space I had the students generate their own questions. I used the methodology outlined in Make Just One Change.

Space is a fantastic unit for inquiry. Pretty much every kid has things they wonder about for space. And by going through all of these questions they’re interested in, we actually cover all of the required learning objectives.

Day 139 – TRIUMF



Science 8 – I took my classes to TRIUMF at UBC today.  It was a good day for a few reasons.  First, it was nice just to get outside of the classroom. Second, for many students this was their first time taking public transportation by themselves and a good way to start that  process. Thirdly, the facility is just plain interesting.

After our tour I polled the kids to see how they liked it.  The feedback was pretty polar.  Most kids really liked it and found it interesting. A reasonable amount did not like it all that much. I think this polarization can be explained by the students’ existing knowledge.  For those that had a hard time with the vocabulary being used in the tour, the tour was not very interesting.  Often times we adults don’t give enough thought into what vocabulary kids know, when giving talks or presentations.

Day 138 – Waves


Physics 11 – Today I had students create standing waves with long springs.  The goal for the lesson was to see what a standing wave looks like, and to calculate the speed of wave from wavelength and frequency.

The most challenging (and rewarding) part of this lesson is that it makes the students really think about the definition of “wavelength.”  It’s such an easy thing to label on a diagram but as soon as confronted with something more complex such as a standing wave, the kids have to discuss and come to an agreement on what the wavelength is.

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I’m also getting ready for a small project for the students. In groups they’ll receive 90 cm of tubing and will have to build a closed end pan flute and play a song. Mary Had A Little Lamb with three notes will probably be the minimum required…  I suppose that if I wanted to go full PBL with this, the unit would have started with the goal: Build a pan flute and play a song with it.

Day 137 – Eye Dissection



Science 8 – A highlight of the year is the sheep eye dissection.  With minimal guidance, students were able to ethically and responsibly dissect the eye.  My peer tutor was a fantastic help during this activity as there are a few places that kids have problems, most noticeably when puncturing through the eye the first time.

I got a chuckle from the kids after the lab when they told me that “finally,  we got to do a lab.” Apparently a science lab isn’t a lab until animal parts are cut into!


Day 135 – Force Concept Inventory


Physics 11 – I was away today on ProD duties, and I had my students do the post-test FCI. I haven’t analyzed the results yet but they’re not great.  From my perspective, they were downright disappointing. However, talking to students, it turns out that many kids had one or two other tests that same day and they were test fatigued. I think that would play only a small role in the situation.  I also have to realize that we don’t cover any circular motion in physics 11, and while students with the deepest and best conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics can figure out rotational motion on their own, for others the rotational motion is pretty confusing.

While I think that the FCI should not be prepped for, next year I need to pay more attention to getting the right day for students to do it.  As well, while doing unbalanced forces I think I will do some peer instruction on rotational motion.

Day 134 – Ohm’s Law


Science 9 – Students used the PhET DC Circuit Construction Kit to explore the relationship between voltage and current.  I had them use the simulator because it’s difficult to get good data using our ammeters and voltmeters.  I found that it was too easy for kids to make a mistake, and then they get data that doesn’t reveal any patterns.

Even though in grade 9 the kids are not especially great at deriving equations from a linear relationship, they are able to see a pattern and relationship using a data table, and can use words to describe this relationship.

For example, with the table below once they’ve collected data for current using different voltages, they will see that the voltage is always 100x the current.  From this, most kids decide to write something like “resistance times current is voltage”

 Resistor Size = 100 Ohm
 Current  Voltage