joema

Teaching modern physics in high school?

2 posts in this topic

I am not an educator but have worked with several physicists who bemoan the poor state of physics curriculums in American secondary schools. E.g, there are recent papers by professional educators which essentially argue *against* teaching a modern atomic model in high school. See "Why we should teach the Bohr model and how to teach it effectively" (McKagan, 2007): http://arxiv.org/abs/0707.1541

I have likewise seen many secondary school science educators espouse various objections to teaching modern physics, including it's too hard, students will get confused, not enough time, student math isn't at sufficient level, etc. 

This creates a problem in everyday life when the news is full of things like Higgs boson, dark matter, gravitational waves, etc. Popular level magazines and TV shows frequently mention "The Standard Model", when many high school students have never even heard the term. People see those accounts and when I try to explain the atom is not like a little solar system they are bewildered. 

However I happened across this video by Dan Fullerton, which effectively summarizes the standard model in a few minutes: High School Physics - The Standard Model

It doesn't seem that hard and I am not convinced all the objections about  teaching modern physics in high school are valid. I see some movements to address this, although they are fighting an uphill battle against institutional inertia and voices like the above McKagen paper: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2002/08/new-york-science-teachers-prepare-bring-modern-particle-physics-high-school

I found this video which well summarizes the situation. It is respectfully and tastefully done: http://blog.physicsworld.com/2012/11/12/the-awesome-lack-of-modern-phy/

(Adding link to original source video in case it scrolls off the above-referenced blog): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGL22PTIOAM

I was curious about the opinions of secondary school educators on this topic.

 

 

 

Edited by joema
Add link with better durability

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think one of our jobs as professional educators is to open a door to the students to see what possibilities may await them if they continue their studies.  Along those lines, many aspects of modern physics are exciting and interesting and really get kids to start thinking about the world around them.  Though it's not prescribed in any of our state or district curricula, I love teaching very basic relativity as well as microelectronics.  Relativity tends to "blow the kids' minds," and microelectronics provides just a touch of insight into how the computer chips that in many ways dominate our daily lives function.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now