AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

October 2008

AAPT/PTRA Workshop, ACP: Oct. 11, 2008

Energy and How To Teach It

Wei Huang, Ruby Agbuya and Roxan Banzon test thermal conductivity of polystyrene cups.
Hands-on group experimentation and team white-board presentations were the order of the day on October 11 as fifteen teachers and four workshop leaders came to the American Center for Physics in College Park, MD to share approaches to teaching about energy. Topics ranged from elementary to complex, from the difference between watts and lumens to the emission of light when atoms change energy states. Teachers also learned about energy levels in atomic systems; mass-energy equivalence; insulation and R-values; and comparison of the power outputs and relative efficiencies of fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.

Francis Tam
Francis Tam tries “eyeball” glasses from a display of 3-D, diffraction and holographic products.
The group came to the ACP from Maryland elementary, middle and high schools for the one-day AAPT/PTRA (Physics Teaching Resource Agents) workshop on energy following up on a six-day institute held last July at Frostburg State University in Maryland as part of the ITQ/TOPPS (Improving Teacher Quality Through Training Opportunities in Physics and Physical Science) project. Francis Tam, Frostburg Professor of Physics Emeritus, is the Project Director.

Leading the workshop was Jim Nelson, a long-time teacher and former AAPT President. He is AAPT/PTRA’s Principal Investigator and Director. In addition to Nelson and Tam, the workshop teaching team included Eric Moore, Teaching Post-Doc at Frostburg, and Katya Denisova of the Homeland Security Academy in Baltimore. They were assisted by AAPT Programs Coordinator Janet Lane. 

Jim Nelson (l) looks on as Wei Huang, Bel Ramos, Renevie Magboo, Reman Abadejos, and Judy Barber present data on energy efficiency of lightbulbs.
Informally, the group also shared classroom strategies: How do you explain physics to students who don’t speak English? How do you keep order on field trips? Classroom issues weren’t the only topics at the workshop. The teachers also asked about prospects for further programs in view of the national economic crisis.

“When will you know about 2009?”
“Will there be a workshop on wave motion?”
“What about electricity?”

The Electricity Summer Institute for 2009 is already funded, Tam said. A grant application for continuing support is in the works, and it includes funds for a proposed workshop on wave motion, optics and sound. 

ITQ/TOPPS is part of a nation-wide PTRA program organized by AAPT. The organization’s mission is to improve physics teaching and learning. Its rural and urban programs offer leadership training and professional development opportunities for teachers.

The National Science Foundation has funded a series of AAPT/PTRA initiatives, of which the Frostburg project is a part. ITQ/TOPPS receives support through the federal Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) program in conjunction with the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Over the past year PTRA has presented ten MSP workshops and seven summer institutes nationwide. The annual PTRA Leadership Institute and workshop took place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in connection with AAPT’s July Summer Meeting.

Learn more about PTRA at: http://www.aapt.org/PTRA/

Physics Day at NSTA

Friday, November 21, 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
D135, Oregon Convention Center

AAPT offers a full day of physics content at each NSTA area conference. Physics Day consists of presentations on physics topics of current interest, physics demonstrations for the precollege classroom, and a make 'n' take session where participants can construct a piece of physics apparatus for use as a demonstration or as laboratory experiment. Physics Day in Portland is being organized by the Oregon Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Visit http://www.nsta.org/conferences/2008por/specialprograms.aspx#physics for more information.