Day 51: Stress Activity

Thursday, 29 October 2015


Plot your stress level as a function of time for the last two weeks. Think about the stress scale, probably even putting names to some discrete stress levels. Discuss with your table. Now, share, if you want. Here’s my graph.

What do you do when you experience a blip in your stress level? Watch Netflix? Play video games? Go for a run? Me, I spin my wheels thinking about all the time I don’t have to get all the things done. That’s hardly a productive move, right?

I felt this in an extreme way this morning. I did two things to help: 1) get someone to take a little off my plate and 2) do the easiest thing on my list so I feel a small win at the start of the day.


This student was in the musical which had performances last week.

Now, ball up these stress graphs and throw them in the recycling bin. Doesn’t it feel good to get rid of stress?

What a great impromptu activity! I was anxiety-ridden this morning and needed to share with my kids once I found a path out of the mess. After class, I heard several kids say they liked the activity. This one’s a keeper.

Day 50: Critical Angles

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

What’s going on in the above images? (In class, we gathered around the dish of water) In the first case, the laser is being refracted to about 75° from the normal. And in the second, we have total internal reflection. There are also some stray bits of light mixed in there, too.

So I asked the kids to think about this idea, I named that angle where we flip from refracting light to reflecting light, and we learned about how to calculate critical angles.IMG_20151028_111543

We ended the discussion by connecting critical angles to the Olympic Pool image I showed last Friday.

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Day 49: We Met an Astronaut!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


My students thanking Dr. Massimino for sharing his experiences with them.

Dr. Mike Massimino gave a talk to my 6th period class today. He’s a veteran astronaut of Space Shuttle missions STS-109 and STS-125 and a professor of engineering at Columbia University. We were so engaged by his stories of the violence of liftoff, performing a touchy repair on Hubble Space Telescope, and the comedy of the first meal a crewmate ate on Earth after landing.

Dr. Massimino was visiting Westminster as part of a recruiting trip from Columbia University.


An usie with the first astronaut to tweet from space!

Day 47: A Good Hook for Table Discussions

Friday, 23 October 2015

If you’re here for the pedagogy, you’ll want to know that I’m happy with two parts of this class:

  1. the hook was strong (though Googling 2012 olympics pool underwater turns up even better pictures)
  2. there were observations about the picture for kids to argue over

If you’re here for the physics, you’ll want to know that the photo is an excellent example of the critical angle for light refraction/reflection. I showed it in class before introducing refraction and asked what they saw in the video. Students were to discuss at their tables. I recorded audio for one group, which is presented here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 4.16.30 PM

I first saw the image on Mr. Reid’s blog though it was originally posted to @L2012PoolCam on Twitter.

Day 45: Microfeedback

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

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The view from my inbox currently looks like this.

Asked the kids to respond to one question via email today. I started gathering microfeedback earlier in the semester and loved the results. Today’s question: “When I can’t figure out a homework problem, I _______________.” My encouragement was to talk about how they feel or what they actually do (or both!).

One of my goals this year is to develop more independent learners. A primary strategy I’m using is getting them to check the online textbook, Physics Classroom, before asking me.

I absolutely love microfeedback because not only will I get useful feedback for now but I can use the results as data for tracking progress toward my goal*.

* shoutout to Chris Coleman, a former boss who taught me pretty much everything can be measured.

Day 44: Spherical Mirrors

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

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How do images form in spherical mirrors? That flexible piece of aluminum I used as a spherical mirror worked great! We experimented with different incident angles to get a feel for how the light rays would reflect. In the future, I should do this as a lab.

Later, we walked through the simplest way to locate images in concave mirrors. The kids got stuck when the object is on the focal point, at which point we problem-solved our way to a different approach that works. Virtual images are difficult.

Day 41: Pinhole Camera Construction

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Two classes built their pinhole cameras. To streamline the process this year over past years, I made two modifications: 1) dropped the optimal pinhole diameter calculation and 2) had kids only bring a container they could easily make light tight. My personal favorites are metal tins or Quaker Oats cans. I provided the other materials (pins, aluminum cans, and black spray paint.

Pringles cans rarely work, just a word of warning.

We also did a quick research session at the start of building day:

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Each group shared out to the class on their research question.

We built in a single 70 minute class period.