Jump to content

Teaching modern physics in high school?

Recommended Posts

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

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Terms of Use

The pages of APlusPhysics.com, Physics in Action podcasts, and other online media at this site are made available as a service to physics students, instructors, and others. Their use is encouraged and is free of charge. Teachers who wish to use materials either in a classroom demonstration format or as part of an interactive activity/lesson are granted permission (and encouraged) to do so. Linking to information on this site is allowed and encouraged, but content from APlusPhysics may not be made available elsewhere on the Internet without the author's written permission.

Copyright Notice

APlusPhysics.com, Silly Beagle Productions and Physics In Action materials are copyright protected and the author restricts their use to online usage through a live internet connection. Any downloading of files to other storage devices (hard drives, web servers, school servers, CDs, etc.) with the exception of Physics In Action podcast episodes is prohibited. The use of images, text and animations in other projects (including non-profit endeavors) is also prohibited. Requests for permission to use such material on other projects may be submitted in writing to info@aplusphysics.com. Licensing of the content of APlusPhysics.com for other uses may be considered in the future.

  • Create New...