Sunday, May 21, 2017

Eggs, Trains, and Engineering [Video]

This story from the May 14th episode of Classroom Close-up is one of my favorites from the current season. While the Egg Drop is definitely a science class classic, this is the first time I've seen it done with simulated magnetic levitation train collisions.

Students at Kenneth R. Olsen Middle School in Tabernacle are learning how math and science are used during problem-based learning projects. Using the engineering design process, students work in teams to design and build prototype maglev train cars and put them through a simulated crash test. Working collaboratively to find solutions, students learn skills that will last a lifetime.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Montgomery Parents Say, “Freshman Physics Too Hard.” Trenton Parents Say, “Thank You for the Opportunity.” [Video]

I just happened to see an article on about parents and students who oppose Montgomery's Physic First program that requires freshman to take an introductory physics course. The argument basically boils down to two points:
  • It's too difficult and stressful
  • It's not the way it's traditionally done
By traditionally done, I'm referring to the standard science sequence most people go through in high school (Biology to Chemistry to Physics). The reason being that freshmen students haven't yet studied the advanced math needed for physics. 

My first thought reading the article was to wonder if Montgomery was using NJCTL's PSI/PMI programs (zero-cost curricula developed by teachers through a non-profit organization) which promotes a new sequence where students take an algebra-based physics program as freshman. It doesn't appear this is the program Montgomery is using, but the reasoning behind it is similar.

We've covered NJCTL and their programs a number of times on Classroom Close-up. Last year, I produced a story about the implementation of their programs in Trenton.

It's interesting that the article mentions how Princeton High School doesn't require physics for freshman which seems to imply the fact supports the opposition in Montgomery. I actually talked about the idea of freshman physics with a number of academically-minded Princeton acquaintances after we filmed our story. Some found the idea intriguing, but I witnessed the same skepticism.

“They don't know the math yet.” and “That's not the way I learned it.”

All I can say in response is that there appears to be a lot of evidence and support from professional educators for the idea of putting physics first.

Final thoughts:
  • I find it intriguing that 300 parents in a high-performing, well-funded district oppose this new science sequence while struggling, urban districts like Trenton and Camden (where students historically lack access to higher level classes like physics) embrace the concept.
  • I wonder how much semantics plays into opposing the idea of physics first? If they called the freshman physics course something else would people even think twice about it? Back in the 1980's, my high school required students to take a 9th-grade science class called "Energy" which I'm pretty sure was essentially an intro to physics. To the best of my knowledge, no one opposed this class. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Students Interview Joyce Hansen, Author of The Captive [Video]

The March 19 episode of Classroom Close-up, NJ featured one of those rare occurrences when I get to return to a school I've visited before. This time, I was back at Kresson School in Voorhees Township to show how students are combining language arts, research, interpersonal communication, and technology skills to explore history. 

Interviewing the Author
Fifth-graders at Kresson School in Voorhees Township Skype with award winning novelist Joyce Hansen about her book The Captive—a pre-teen novel about a young African prince who is kidnapped and brought to colonial America. The author explains how she researched the novel and answers questions about her characters. The students learn how to research, create website,s and conduct meaningful interviews.

I wish I had been able to include more about the book and Hansen, but I chose to focus on the pedagogy of the lesson and how it combined different areas of instruction to create a unique experience for the students. I have to admit, interviewing students who had just spent weeks learning about interviewing made me a little self-conscious about my technique.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

3D Printing Prosthetic Hands [Video]

Here's a story from the March 12 episode of Classroom Close-up, NJ about students at Southern Regional High School who are building 3D printed prosthetic hands.

Give the World a Helping Hand
At-risk students from Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin collaborate with students in an advanced Anatomy and Physiology class to design and build 3D-printed prosthetic hands for those in need. Using equipment purchased through a HIPP grant, students learn to use CAD software and print the hand components. At the same time they're learning STEM skills, the at-risk students are able to develop communication and life skills.