Day 160: Peer Review & Geologic Time

AP Physics: Peer Review

I put students in random groups and had them share their project so far, then evaluate each other with a rubric. In addition to the feedback, students found it really helpful just to practice talking out loud about their project. A lot of them also got excited hearing about what some classmates they don’t normally interact with are working on and are looking forward to the presentations next week.

Earth Science: Geologic Time

Students made timelines to compare  the relative amounts of time in a 14 year old’s live to the amount of time in the major geologic periods and eras, which seemed to help them wrap their heads around the relative lengths of time much more than the big numbers would. I used a worksheet that already had specific events in the life of a 14 year old they should include, but next time I think I will either stick to just having a set number of years or work on making the events more open-ended since many of them are very cultural.


Day 159: Frisbee Golf & Radioactive Decay

AP Physics: Frisbee Golf

Today was the last true work day on the final project. One student is analyzing a specific throw frisbee golf had come up with attaching an LED to a point on the edge of his disk to make it easier to find the angular velocity after a throw since a sticker wasn’t quite visible enough in the video.

A lot of students are getting excited for presentations next week. Several students are really proud of what they’ve done so far and are looking forward to sharing it with their peers. One student was really disappointed when he realized he’s going to miss one day of presentations; I suspect he’ll insist the students he misses tell him about their projects some other time.

Earth Science: Radioactive Decay

When I collected notebooks yesterday, one of the items I looked at was a reflection that included a question about what students need from me to end the term the way they would like. Several students wrote they aren’t always sure what the big idea behind a lab is or how it connects to other labs, which isn’t surprising since I feel like I’ve been struggling with that in earth science. This is a good reminder of how important it is to have a coherent, purposeful curriculum.

Today, we shifted from looking at the relative ages of rocks to finding the absolute age with radioactive dating. Students did a lab flipping “coins” to model radioactive decay. I also collected a class average and spent a lot of the post-lab discussion looking at how results from individual groups compared to the class average. I also expanded the time we spent on connecting the lab to actual radioactive decay in response to the student comments.

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Day 158: Trampoline & Superposition

AP Physics: Trampoline

Students continued to work on their projects. One student wanted to study trampoline physics, but was having some trouble figuring out how to get reliable jumps. She ended up building a mini “trampoline” by stretching some lycra over a bucket to get something easier to control and collect data from.

Technology access is more of an issue than I anticipated. I have some students who would like to use video analysis on their project, but had fallen behind and were not ready to take advantage of the time last week we were able to spend in the computer lab. Next year, I want to spend more time having students do some backwards planning on their project. I had them submit a proposal to me, and I might have them include a timeline.

Earth Science: Superposition

Students got some cross sections and had to rank the age of various features. Students were very successful at figuring out not just the rules of thumb for determining relative age, but making sense of why those rules are true.


Day 157: FCI & Review

AP Physics: FCI

Students took the FCI today. I didn’t get my act together to give anything as a pre-test this year, but I want to start doing a pre- and post-test again next year and am trying to decide whether I’d rather use the FCI or the CTSR. To help decide, I’m going to see if one test correlates better to my students’ scores on the AP Physics 1 exam.

Earth Science: Review

I had students whiteboard their answers from Friday’s review for discussion. On a question about what causes different types of volcanoes, I realized students were having trouble separating characteristics of the different types from what causes the different types, so we spent some time discussing that. Next time I teach this course, I need to think about how to shift this unit (and several others) to help students more clearly separate cause and effect.

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Day 156: Base Sliding & Synthesis Day

Today is Tartan’s Relay for Life and one of my classes got visited by the infamous purple toilet. Note the Canadian bill donated by one of my students.


AP Physics: Base Sliding

Students are wrapping up data collection and analysis for their final projects. I’ve got two students looking at the physics of sliding into a base to try and answer whether feet first or head first is better. They’re in different hours, so I’m not too worried about the repetition, but they are also looking at some different perspectives. One is looking at angular momentum as the player moves from running to sliding while the other is focusing on the actual slide. Its actually a little too bad they are in separate hours since it could be fun to have them compare notes.

Earth Science: Synthesis Day

I feel like this unit has been pretty disjointed and students are not making connections between volcanoes, mountains, folds, faults, and plate tectonics. I had them work through some conceptual questions today to explicitly draw connections between those ideas, which illuminated some specific areas I need to revise in this unit. For example, one of the questions asked students to determine whether mountains or volcanoes are more likely to have folds, and it came out that a lot of students don’t have a mental model for how a fold forms.

Day 155: Hockey Pucks & Vocab

AP Physics: Hockey Pucks

Students continued to work on their projects today. One of my students is analyzing momentum transfer between a hockey puck and a stick and found a surprising result. He expected the puck to have a fairly constant acceleration while in contact with the stick, but his data shows a big jump in the puck’s acceleration when the blade of the stick starts to flex. The next challenge is to try and figure out why!

Earth Science: Vocab

This class had a sub today, so no photos. There’s been a lot of vocabulary this unit, so I had student work on a short activity to put the vocab into student-friendly language and do some synthesis with the terms. I’ll find out tomorrow how things went.

Day 154: Colliding Bouncy Balls & Isostacy

AP Physics: Colliding Bouncy Balls

Students continued to work on their final projects. One student worked on colliding pairs of bouncy balls together at different speeds to see how bouncing changes against an elastic surface instead of a hard one.

Earth Science: Isostacy

We didn’t actually use the word isostacy today, but students floated blocks of different kinds of wood in a bucket of water and measured the ratio of the block above the water to below the water. I’d love to plan ahead better and get a better mix of blocks with several with the same density, but different volumes. I was able to get around that by having them stack two identical blocks to see the ratio stays the same.


Day 153: Charlie Brown & Volcanic Landforms

AP Physics: Charlie Brown

Students continued work on their projects. One student did some video analysis of a clip of Charlie Brown kicking a football to explain why he falls down after Lucy pulls it away.

Earth Science: Volcanic Landforms

I did some notes on volcanic landforms, but tried to break it up a bit by explicitly having students annotate their notes at a few points during class. I also tried a “give one, get one” at the end since many of my students have been skipping writing questions based on their notes, but I don’t think students saw the value in that activity. Partly, since I’ve managed to cut down on the notes, I haven’t spent much time laying the foundation for Cornell notes, and students haven’t had much practice in my class writing questions based on notes.

Day 152: Project & Mountain-Building

AP Physics: Project

Students continued work on their projects. Both of my classes are wrapping up the theory and planning portions of the project, and the different personalities of those classes is incredibly apparent. In my 2nd hour, there was a lot of noise and chaos as students worked through their ideas out load as they typed or wrote. In my 4th hour, you could hear a pin drop as students worked out their ideas independently.

Earth Science: Mountain-Building

Today was one of those days in my earth science class. I’d put together an activity on mountain-building and volcano formation in PhET’s Plate Tectonics simulation that I was pretty excited about. When my students fired up the laptops, only thee out of 35 were able to get the simulation running. Plan B was to demo the activity on the SMARTBoard, but the teacher computer failed to load the simulation with a different error. With half the period gone, I resorted to notes. Our tech guy got the issue fixed, so now I have to decide whether I want to try again, or hold on to the activity for the next time I teach earth science.

Day 151: Space Yo-Yos & Volcano Types

AP Physics: Space Yo-Yos

Students continued work on their projects. I showed students Rhett Allain’s recent post on fidget spinner physics as a really strong example of what I’d like. Yesterday was also the last AP exam that a large percentage of seniors at my school take, and the combined result is a lot of students seemed much more focused on their projects today. In one hour, a student was talking through the physics behind some yo-yo tricks, and started trying to figure out which tricks should work in space and why. Turns out, there is video evidence for some of the tricks he said don’t require gravity!


Earth Science: Volcano Types

Today, I introduced students to the three main types of volcanoes. First, they predicted whether wet sand, ooblek, or a pile of scoria could make a taller volcano to get them thinking about the physical properties that lead to the shapes of the different types of volcanoes.