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Physics labs for high school students

Welcome to The Laboratory!

Science is different than other subjects. It is not just the subject of science that is different; the entire process of doing science is different. The means by which knowledge is acquired is different in science than it is in history or mathematics or poetry or ... . Science is different because the answers to scientific questions are not found in a textbook or through pondering high and lofty thoughts. Indeed, scientists ponder and hopefully think high and lofty thoughts; and indeed students in science class will find answers in a textbook. But the basis of what scientists believe and why they believe it is not the result of mere thinking or reading in a textbook. The basis of what scientists believe is the result of the careful collection and analysis of laboratory evidence. In any physics class, the differentness of science will be most evident when it comes time for lab.

In physics class, lab is central. Integral. Sacred. More than a mere place in the back of the classroom, the laboratory is the place where physics students do physics. It is in the laboratory that physics students learn to practice the activities of scientists - asking questions, performing procedures, collecting data, analyzing data, answering questions, and thinking of new questions to explore. The lab ideas and associated pages in The Laboratory section of this web site are designed to help teachers improve their lab programs by adopting labs with a purpose. There are over 150 lab ideas presented here - but their presentation is much different than the traditional presentation of a lab. The traditional lab comes with a lengthy procedure which dominates the landscape - both the landscape of the distributed paper as well as the landscape of the student mind. The Laboratory attempts to change all this by presenting students with a Purpose, and primarily a Purpose. In the pages at The Laboratory, you will find labs with a purpose.

The lab description pages which are linked to below describe the Question and the Purpose of each lab and provide a short description of what should be included in the student lab report. You will hardly ever find a procedure, and very few data tables. The multitude of other pages found at The Laboratory are designed to help teachers use this section of the website (or at least parts of it) effectively in their classroom. Teachers will find prescribed methods of use, a short philosophical background, extensive teacher guides for every lab, grading rubrics, auxiliary items which can be provided to assist students in the completing of their lab work, and information about using lab notebooks. And to make it as easy as possible to use the labs in the classroom, much of the information is provided to teachers as PDF and Microsoft Word downloads. Once downloaded, the information can be edited, altered, augmented and customized to reflect the teacher's personal style and the unique needs of the students in their classrooms.

The following pages are recommended reading for teachers interested in using this section of the web site.

Quick Links to Lab Descriptions:

One Dimensional Kinematics

Title of Lab Lab Description
Speedometer Lab html
Speedometer Cubed Lab html
Diagramming Motion Lab html
Position-Time Graphs Lab html
Interpreting the Slope Lab html
Velocity-Time Graphs Lab html
Match That Graph Lab html
Two-Stage Rocket Lab html
Free Fall Lab html
Dune Buggy Challenge Lab html

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Newton's Laws

Title of Lab Lab Description
Pass the Water Lab html
Galileo for a Day Lab html
Wait! Hmmm. Gee. Lab html
F-m-a Lab html
Coffee Filter Skydiver Lab html
From a Feather to an Elephant Lab html
Falling Body Spreadsheet Study html
Friction Lab html
Mu Shoe Physics Lab html
Breaking Strength Lab html
Two-Body Lab html
Ut Tensio, Sic Vis Lab html
Normal Force-o-meter Lab html

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Vectors and Projectiles

Title of Lab Lab Description
Map Lab html
As the Crow Flies Lab html
Where Am I? Lab html
Road Trip Lab html
Crossing the River Lab html
Basketball Analysis Lab html
Projectile Simulation Lab html
Projectile Problem-Solving Lab html
Projectile Problem-Solving II Lab html
Launcher Speed Lab html
Maximum Range Lab html
Hit the Target Lab html

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Vectors and Forces

Title of Lab Lab Description
It's a Breeze Lab html
Getting Hung Up by Tension Lab html
Sign Hanging Lab html
Maximum Load Lab html
Science Friction Adventure Lab html
Inclined Plane Lab html
On a Roll Challenge Lab html
Modified Atwood's Machine Lab html

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Momentum and Collisions

Title of Lab Lab Description
Being Impulsive About Momentum Change Lab html
Balloon Toss Lab html
Rebounding versus Sticking Lab html
Before and After Lab html
Action-Reaction Lab html
Sand Balloon Lab html
Inelastic Collision Analysis Lab html
Elastic Collision Analysis Lab html
What's Cooking? Lab html
Two-Dimensional Collision Lab html

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Work and Energy

Title of Lab Lab Description
It's All Uphill Lab html
It's All Uphill - The Sequel Lab html
Powerhouse Lab html
Marble Energy Lab html
Marble Energy II Lab html
Work-Kinetic Energy Lab html
Energy on an Incline Lab html
Energy of a Pendulum Lab html
Spring Energy Lab html
Elastic Cord Spreadsheet Study html
Stopping Distance Lab html
All Work and No Play Lab html

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Circular Motion and Satellite Motion

Title of Lab Lab Description
Making the Turn Lab html
Loop the Loop Lab html
Race Track Lab html
The Great Mass Attraction Simulation html
Solar System Sports Spreadsheet Study html
Satellite Motion Simulation html
The Law of Harmonies Analysis html
Jupiter's Moons Analysis html
The Mass of Saturn Analysis html
The Mini Drop Lab html

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Static Electricity

Title of Lab Lab Description
Action at a Distance Lab html
Sticky Tape Experiments Lab html
Pop Can Induction Lab html
Charging by Induction Lab html
Electric Field Simulation html
Coulomb's Law Lab html
Electric Field Lines Lab html

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Electric Circuits

Title of Lab Lab Description
Sparky the Electrician Lab html
First to Light Lab html
Greatest Current Lab html
Voltage-Current-Resistance Lab html
Round vs. Oblong – the Greatest Resistance? Lab html
Series versus Parallel Lab html
Comparing Voltage Drops and Currents in Series Lab html
Bulbs in Series Circuits Lab html
Comparing Voltage Drops and Currents in Parallel Lab html
Bulbs in Parallel Circuits Lab html
Combination Circuits Lab html
Energy Audit Activity html

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Wave Basics

Title of Lab Lab Description
A Wiggle in Time Lab html
Period of a Pendulum Lab html
A Wiggle in Time and Space Lab html
Wave Motion Lab html
Speed of a Wave Lab html
Vibrating Spring Lab html
Nodes and Antinodes Lab html
Harmonic Frequencies Lab html
Wave Behavior Demonstration Lab html

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Sound and Music

Title of Lab Lab Description
Listen Up! Lab html
Mach 1 Lab html
Natural Frequency and Standing Waves Lab html
Closed End Air Column Lab html
Open End Air Column Lab html
Guitar String Lab html
Music in a Bottle Lab html
Musical Intervals Lab html
Musical Scales Lab html
Timbre Lab html
Who Can Hear Monte Tone? Lab html

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Light and Color

Title of Lab Lab Description
Ripple Tank Lab html
Two-Point Source Analysis Lab html
Young's Experiment Lab html
Getting it Right With Light Lab html
Diluted by Distance Lab html
Color Addition Lab html
Taking Away from RGB Lab html
Painting with CMY Lab html
Filtering Away Lab html

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Reflection and Mirrors

Title of Lab Lab Description
Reflection Lab html
Plane Mirror Image Lab html
Rough versus Smooth Lab html
What Portion ...? Lab html
Right Angle Mirror Lab html
Improving Your Image Lab html
Infinity Derivation html
Exploring Curved Mirrors Lab html
Finding Smiley Lab html
Magnification Ratio Lab html
Mirror Equation Derivation html

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Refraction and Lenses

Title of Lab Lab Description
Refraction Action Lab html
Direction of Bending Lab html
Least Time Principle Lab html
How Much? Lab html
The Unknown n Lab html
R and R Lab html
A Critical Lab html
Exploring Lenses Lab html
The L•O•S•T Art of Image Description Lab html
The Lens Equation Lab html

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physics labs for high school students

physics labs for high school students High School Physics | MIT OpenCourseWare | Free Online.

.. . Science is different because the answers to scientific questions are not found in a textbook or through pondering high and lofty thoughts. Indeed, scientists ponder and hopefully think high and lofty thoughts; and indeed students in science class will find answers in a textbook. But the basis of what scientists believe and why they believe it is not the result of mere thinking or reading in a textbook. The basis of what scientists believe is the result of the careful collection and analysis of laboratory evidence. In any physics class, the differentness of science will be most evident when it comes time for lab.

In physics class, lab is central.

The lab ideas and associated pages in The Laboratory section of this web site are designed to help teachers improve their lab programs by adopting labs with a purpose. There are over 150 lab ideas presented here - but their presentation is much different than the traditional presentation of a lab. The traditional lab comes with a lengthy procedure which dominates the landscape - both the landscape of the distributed paper as well as the landscape of the student mind. The Laboratory attempts to change all this by presenting students with a Purpose, and primarily a Purpose. In the pages at The Laboratory, you will find labs with a purpose. The multitude of other pages found at The Laboratory are designed to help teachers use this section of the website (or at least parts of it) effectively in their classroom. Teachers will find prescribed methods of use, a short philosophical background, extensive teacher guides for every lab, grading rubrics, auxiliary items which can be provided to assist students in the completing of their lab work, and information about using lab notebooks. And to make it as easy as possible to use the labs in the classroom, much of the information is provided to teachers as PDF and Microsoft Word downloads. Once downloaded, the information can be edited, altered, augmented and customized to reflect the teacher's personal style and the unique needs of the students in their classrooms. It is a re-make of our popular Minds On Physics Internet Modules ... on steroids. Learn about our exciting project and begin MOP-ping on your phone, tablet, Chromebook, and Mac. (Windows versions are under construction.) Students will appreciated the immediate feedback, the question-specific help, and the repeated opportunities to correct misconceptions. Teachers will appreciate the extensive progress reports provided by the App version of our Minds On Physics program.

Minds On Physics - Legacy Version is the browser-based, Shockwave-dependent version of Minds On Physics the App. Relying on the Shockwave plug-in and a collection of carefully crafted questions, the Legacy Version of MOPs seeks to improve students' conceptions of physics. Formerly named the Minds On Physics Internet Modules, this Shockwave-delivered program combines interactive questioning modules with web-based instructional resources to engage students in an exercise in thinking, reflecting and learning.

Despite my insanity, I had a few notable successes. Here are just two:

Story #1

I recently got two emails from the mother of a student. Let’s call him Pete (no, it’s not his real name). If you had asked me the first quarter of the year, I would have told you Pete was going to fail Algebra 2. In fact, I was certain he was going to fail. The first email came about a month ago:

Good morning. Just wanted to thank you for helping Pete with tutoring. He has come home excited about getting better grades in your

class. It is nice to see him working towards getting those “4’s”, and really wanting to keep his grade up.

I was proud to hear that even though he was not feeling well on Thursday, he found a way to make it to the school to take a quiz, he didn’t want you

to think he was slacking.

Pete started staying after school for help one or two days a week for the last several months. Sometimes he would just work out problems on the board for an hour. Some days he took a quiz. I never forced him to stay, I didn’t do anything except set expectations and keep the bar high. Pete’s motivation developed as he starting mastering a single concept. Little by little he started to have some success.

I don’t think Paul had ever had any success in math. He was a victim of “learned helplessness” and was often a belligerent student. Paul is planning on going into the union and didn’t see much need to do anything beyond basic math. It was pretty clear that if he was going to pass my class, it wasn’t going to be by much.

I didn’t give up on Paul, I made him work every class. It took a while, but he mastered a single concept. A little success made a huge difference in his outlook and after a short time, he mastered another concept. Then something truly amazing happened. Paul’s friends started asking him for help and his confidence started to grow.

I’ll take some of the credit for Paul’s turnaround, but I know for a fact that if I used traditional grading methods, he would have never mastered anything this year and would possibly be doing it all again in summer school.

Epilog

I think if there is a moral to these stories it’s that students will rise to meet expectations. Set the bar low and they will easily reach it. Set the bar high and they will struggle, learn from their failures, and gain confidence in themselves. But consistency is important. If you start down the path to SBG and wavier or back down, you’ve permanently lowered the bar in the students’ eyes.

Most of these resources come from the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). NSDL is the National Science Foundation's online library of resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. See www.nsdl.org

Teachers' Domain: Physical Science
Resource: Educator (grades K-12)
http://www.teachersdomain.org/collection/k12/sci.phys/
This site is dedicated to helping teachers teach physics by providing a large collection of lesson plans, organized by topics and grade levels.

Energy Systems and Solutions
Resource: Educator (grades K-12)
http://teachengineering.org/search_results.php?simple=Energy+systems+and+solutions
Part of the Teach Engineering Web site, this section provides educators with numerous lesson plans and engaging activities for elementary through high school.

Lessons in Physics
Resource: Educator (grades K-12)
http://teachengineering.

Activities engage students of all ages in the science of physics.

IPPEX! (The Interactive Plasma Physics Education Experience)
Resource: Educator (high school and above)
http://ippex.pppl.gov/
This site contains interactive plasma physics topics ranging from electricity, magnetism, energy and fusion and allows students and teachers to participate remotely in scientific research. at the country's largest fusion energy laboratory. Utilizing a hands-on, discovery-based approach, this site will help to build a knowledge base on which students can build.

Atomic Archive
Resource: Educator (middle and high school) and Students (middle and high school)
http://atomicarchive.com/
This site explores the complex history surrounding the invention of the atomic bomb √ a crucial turning point for all mankind. Intended as an online companion to AJ Software & Multimedia's latest CD-ROM, Atomic Archive: Enhanced Edition, this site provides basic information on nuclear issues.

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