New Physics Curriculum in Development

The Practices in Physics & Technology (PP&T) project brings together educators, education researchers, and physics professors to create new curriculum materials meant to teach physics as a first high school science course before students take chemistry and biology. Work this year focused on piloting the program in the University Laboratory School and creating a teacher guide based on the experiences of students in these classrooms. The content of this curriculum is based on a set of twenty-four topics dealing with Newtonian mechanics and energy. The curricular experience places students in a problem-solving environment that allows them to invent solutions to the technological problems they encounter as they engage in experimentation. The program is designed to teach physics through the practices and products of laboratory investigation. Using a historically informed sequence, concepts are developed through traditional experimentation and validated using modern digital equipment. The teacher materials are designed to reflect the real world of the classroom where, it is acknowledged, experimentation, and the resulting data, will inevitably be messier than that produced by professional scientists. High school students may struggle with the mathematics or with the ability to communicate the results of their work, while work habits, equipment, or students’ lack of background knowledge may lead to inconclusive data. Pedagogical techniques are provided to address these kinds of issues while still working with students in a way that reflects the practices of physicists and engineers at the lab bench.