Who would ever guess that one of the videos that brought me the biggest smile this week was from a website called “Physics Central”? Its subtitle, “Learn How Your World Works” is an apt description of the wealth of resources found at the website. Sponsored by the American Physics Society, the website includes three major sections. The Explore the Science section is full of information on everything from robotic skin inspired by ladybugs to the physics of a perfect handstand, along with stories of physicists, their lives and passion for physics. The Physics Buzz section is full of blog links on all things physics.
But my favorite part of the site is the Ask & Experiment area, where you’ll find activities, contests, and experiments to try, and then expand. In this area students have the chance to ask and explore physics questions, and to express their understanding in multidisciplinary ways. There are Physics Quests for middle school students that start with stories like this:
Follow Spectra in her next adventure. It’s wintertime, and the swim team of Tesla Junior high has gone to Pasadena, CA for their yearly winter training camp. The state championship meet is coming up, where they will face the unbeaten Edison Middle School Wizards of Menlo Park, IN. Coach Henri Toueaux will stop at nothing to secure a new trophy for his office and he doesn’t care who he leaves in his wake, including his team. Follow Spectra and her gang as they use her laser powers and their knowledge of fluid flow to stop H. Toueaux from crossing the line from motivating coach to evil villain.
The quests read like graphic adventure novels, and are free to registered classes grades 6-9. The kits include physics experiments, and the chance to submit results for prizes. I love the interdisciplinary nature of Physics Quests. Think about what might happen if, after experiencing a few quests, students had the chance to write mini-versions—adventure stories with embedded science content. What an example of an understanding performance!
There’s lots more to explore, but you’ll have to do that on your own. But start with a sample of one of their video contests, in this case the Laserfest Video Contest in which students were challenged to create a video using a laser to explain any physics concept. There were two winners of the contest. Here’s one. Check out the website for the other. Think about what your students could do with your science content. If you try, send a link so we can share!