Week 3: Workshops and Lesson Plans

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Monday, June 27, 2016


Simon Wright

This week has been quite as packed as the last. On Tuesday, I went to a 100K in 10 Solutions Lab where we discussed how to incorporate the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into a successful curriculum for STEM teachers. It was an interesting experience to sit with members of all kinds of different STEM societies and discuss education, especially given how immersed in educational philosophy I have been for the last three weeks. I had minimal knowledge of what ESSA entails when I arrived at the workshop, and it was very interesting to hear a variety of opinions about a lot of general education and science education standards. Before researching this internship, I had never even heard of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), but now it seems like everyone has an opinion. And not everyone loves them, either! It’s great to hear educated debate on education standards and science ed, especially given the discourse that STEM workers and educators have to deal with from those who are not familiar with the field.

On Wednesday, I attended a workshop at ACP for new faculty in physics and astronomy. The day started with a lecture on active engagement in upper-level undergraduate physics/astronomy classes. I haven’t been focusing too much on undergraduate education so far, so it was really interesting to hear from a university professor who has a lot of experience. Additionally, active engagement is something that is possibly even more important at younger ages, so while the particulars of the presentation were focused on undergrad, it got my mind spinning on ways to include the same concepts in K-12 STEM classes.

After this presentation, I joined a few different breakout sessions, one of which was about physics simulations and programs, and the benefits of and opportunities for having students write or modify their own simulations rather than simply observe. The session was focused around “physlets,” which are small simulations written in Java or JavaScript, and which were entirely open source and can be modified easily. Given the work I mentioned last week about using Bootstrap to teach physics through programming, I found this session fascinating and inspiring. While I unfortunately won’t be the one writing the lesson plans for the Bootstrap project (that will be left to the teachers attending the workshop), it got me thinking about other opportunities to include modeling and programming in early physics education.

I went to several other sessions and presentations that day, and I was surprised at how much new and interesting information was available. There were educational tools and resources that I had never heard of before, many of which I would have liked to have been exposed to in high school, and even though the workshop was focused on undergraduate education it really got me thinking about how I am tackling lesson plans for K-12 students in physics.

Most of the rest of the week has been spent further developing lesson plans for the OSA workshop at the summer meeting, which (I was frightened to realize) is in less than three weeks. There are many more lesson plans to write, and I know I am going to have my work cut out for me as the workshop approaches.

Simon Wright