This was the last week of school for seniors! Since they are around 90% of my students, this was the last week of instruction in my classes. Next week, the juniors in my classes will have time to finish anything they still need to for my class or prepare for finals in their other classes.
Physics: Pendulum Practicals
This week we did two lab practicals using pendulums. First, we had students determine the length of a pendulum using only a stopwatch, which went really smoothly. Next, we had students figure out where to start a buggy so that the pendulum bob would collide with a passenger in the buggy. The big thing I noticed was students treating the period of a pendulum as three different equations, depending on which variable they were solving for. This fit with a general pattern this year of students struggling with using math in physics. While I think the unique challenges of last year are a factor, I think it would also be worth looking at our curriculum to see how we could do a better job of not just using math, but helping students develop a conceptual understanding of the math we are using. I won’t be able to work on that directly next year since I will be out of the classroom working as a high school science content specialist, but I’d like to think about how I can support teachers interested in that work. There will also be a high school math content specialist, and I think it will be worth having some conversations with him to think about how our departments could collaborate.
AP Physics 1: Final Projects
Students met with me about their final project drafts, then presented them to the class. I feel like while these students are phenomenal in small groups, I’ve struggled to build a whole-class community this year. During the presentations, however, there was a lot of joking around from both presenters and the audience, and several presentations included references to Throckmorton, who appears in many of our problems. I think we had more of a whole-class community this year than I realized, it just looked different than in previous years. It was really nice to have that so apparent on our last day together.
We worked on an assortment of pendulum problems this week. The packet starts with some problems that focus on using representations like free-body diagrams and energy bar charts to describe the motion of a pendulum. After that, we shifted to lots of algebra using the equation for the period of a pendulum. With the way our packet is set up, we don’t have students do much thinking or reasoning with the diagrams they sketch. I think with this unit, I’d like to revise our packet to get more emphasis on conceptual thinking about pendulums.
AP Physics 1: Final Projects
Students continued working on their final projects. The projects this year are heavy on calculations to describe scenes in movies or moves in video games. I usually have more projects that involve real-life data collection, but I think this is partly a factor of doing a a shorter project than usual since the AP Physics 1 test was so late this year, so students had less time to brainstorm and to carry out their projects. That said, I am having a lot of fun talking with students about their projects and hearing all the cool thinking they are doing.
This will probably be my last post of the year. Today was the last day for seniors, so my Physics and AP Physics 1 classes wrapped up today. My Chemistry Essentials class is mostly juniors, which means they will continue through the end of next week, but I’ll miss out since I’m going to the AP Physics reading.
This year, I’ve been doing a lot of work to try and build a strong whole-class culture and, compared to previous years, I had a lot more students talk about how they’ll missing being in their specific hour of physics, suggesting there was a strong sense of community. That was a really exciting element of my last day for the year.
AP Physics 1: Final Project Presentations
We finished up final project presentations. There was one group that designed and built a rig to reliably launch a hockey puck to measure the stopping distance along various surfaces in order to determine toe coefficient of friction. For the final, students were given a spring with a known spring constant and tasked with finding the mass of a mystery object.
Physics: Lab Final
Students did a lab practical for the second half of their final exam. There was lots of great conversation as students worked through the problem and it was a lot of fun for me to see students using so many of the skills we’ve been working on this year.
Chemistry Essentials: Nuke Whiteboarding
We did a quick refresher on nuclear decay using the whiteboards before taking the quiz on nuclear chemistry.
We started presenting final projects. I have each group prepare a presentation, but am pretty lenient on length. I have a couple of students on the trap shooting team that presented today on their examination of the recoil on a shotgun. I hadn’t realized the shotgun barrel is above the center of mass, so there is an upward recoil in addition to the backward recoil.
Physics: Final Exam Part 1
Seniors are done tomorrow, but we’re on a standard schedule both today and tomorrow. To accommodate that, we split the physics final exam into two parts. Today, students took a pretty standard written final.
Chemistry Essentials: Mistakes Whiteboarding
I showed students a table to organize their work on half life calculations, then we did some mistakes whiteboarding on yesterday’s problems. The table made the problems much easier for a lot of students, which was great.
Students worked on polishing their final projects. One student needed to measure some angles in a video clip on Netflix, and had the brilliantly simple idea to just hold a protractor against her screen.
Physics: Review Whiteboarding
Students whiteboarded problems off the final review. A few students asked to chose their own groups since this would be our final round of whiteboarding, but I’m glad I stuck with shuffling them since there was some great conversation during the first few minutes when students were comparing answers on their problems.
Chemistry Essentials: Half Life Problems
We had a board meeting with the results of yesterday’s lab, then students worked on some half life problems. I don’t think I do a great job of linking the lab to the calculations, and I could see it in the ways students were struggling with the calculations.
Students worked on finalizing data collection for their final projects. One group engineered a clever rig to measure how much a fishing rod bent when there was a load.
It was also PJ day for seniors
Physics: Final Review
Students started working on their final review. We didn’t do anything too exciting, just a selection of problems from each topic, but there was a lot of great discussion as students sought out peers who could help with topics they were rusty on.
Chemistry Essentials: Half Life Lab
Students used paper “pennies” for the classic half-life lab. I have student submit their group’s results in a Google form I’ve been using for a few years; it currently has data from 54 groups, which will be nice for tomorrow’s discussion.
Today was senior skip day, so only a few of my students were in class. Most of the AP students opted to work on their final project and some of the Physics students started reviewing for the final.
Chemistry Essentials: Mistakes Whiteboarding
We did some mistakes whiteboarding with problems for nuclear decay. I had a few students ask how we know alpha particles are always helium-4, which got me wondering if there’s a better way I could introduce the types of nuclear decay we study than just giving some notes on the types of decay we’ll be using.
Students continued work on their final projects. One group wants to figure out the charge vs. time function for my Van de Graaff generator. All three students in the group have different predictions for what that function will look like, which lead to some debates with lots of great thinking.
Physics: Ray Diagrams
Students finished working on some ray diagrams for curved mirrors and prepped whiteboards for some mistakes whiteboarding on Monday. Yesterday, a lot of students got frustrated when the rays didn’t meet perfectly or when they had to use virtual rays, but I think a lot of that resolved today.
As a quick refresher before today’s quiz, I gave students a fairly long worksheet, then had them pick out one example of each reaction type to put on a whiteboard. One student showed me how he’s been splitting the formulas in single replacement and double replacement reactions to relate back to general forms like AB + CD → AD + BC.
Final project proposals are due tomorrow, so students worked on finalizing their topic. I got to have a lot of fun conversations today to help students narrow down their topic. One student had picked out a clip from The Cat in the Hat but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with it, so we spent some time talking about the physics involved.
Physics: Curved Mirror Board Meeting
We whiteboarded the results of yesterday’s lab to get to the mirror equation.
Chemistry Essentials: Activity Series Practical
Students got a pre-1982 penny and a post-1982 penny, each with a wedge cut to expose the insides, and used an activity series to predict which would react with hydrochloric acid.
Students continued working on their final projects. One group that is also in AP Computer Science is planning to write a program to model the motion of a soccer ball got excited when they realized they can change gravity in their project.
Physics: Curved Mirrors Round 2
The data from yesterday’s lab was pretty rough, so we used a simulation from The Physics Classroom to collect some idealized data. Students prepped their boards, but we ran out of time for the board meeting.
Chemistry Essentials: Gallery Walk
We did a gallery walk to go over the answers to yesterday’s problems using an activity series to predict whether a single replacement reaction is likely.