Fermilab Education Home sciencelines Homepage Winter 2000

High School Physics Curricula

Societal changes have demanded the changes we are beginning to see in secondary science teaching. Whether a school chooses to implement integrated science or a resequenced curricula with the physics-first approach, teachers experience new demands. Some of these demands are instructional issues and some are resource issues. These newly released resources support some of these changes in the secondary science curricula. All materials are available in the Teacher Resource Center for previewing.

Active Physics, Arthur Eisenkraft, developed in association with American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics (Armonk, NY: It's About Time, 1999). http://www.its-about-time.com
Grades: 9-12

Through six different themes this curriculum presents a physical science course that addresses six areas of the national standards for students in grades 9-12 who might not normally enroll in physics and have a limited prerequisite skill in mathematics and reading. It is an activity-based course that explores issues in the areas of communication, home, medicine, predictions, sports, and transportation while introducing physics concepts on a need-to-know basis. The mathematics demands are comparable to beginning Algebra I using equations and graphs to represent ideas through an "action-oriented" activity method. Use of calculators and spreadsheets is incorporated. In addition to the teacher's guide that includes scientific background, tips for successful student collaborative work, rubrics for performance-based assessment and answers to problems. Content videos support each of the six themes. The student book clarifies the goals, expectations and features of the chapters for students to understand what and how they will learn . Each chapter begins with a scenario problem that is the focus project for that chapter. A minimum of four themes make up an annual curriculum. Teacher guides, student editions and videos can be purchased separately.

Minds-on Physics, developed by the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Massachusetts (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1999). http://www.kendallhunt.com
Grades: 11-12

Minds-on Physics takes a conceptual or constructivist approach to teaching physics through an "action-oriented" activity method. Topics covered include "chapters" in individual books for teachers and students in the areas of motion, interactions, conservation laws and concept-based problem solving as well as fundamental forces and fields, advanced topics in mechanics and complex systems. The student books consist mainly of activities. Some of the activities are thought provoking and journaling reflections where students integrate their current thinking with the new ideas. There is no textbook but rather a reader section in the student book. This provides explanations to be read after the related activity to summarize and assist the student in their thinking process as they integrate the new ideas explored through the activity. Each chapter includes on average of 26 activities. Each activity could be completed during a class period and support the philosophy of the program. The teacher's guide does not present a map to the curricula but is a resource for the educator with guides for each activity including physicist explanations and typical student responses. This resource allows teachers an understanding of typical misconceptions held by students. The goals of the program are for students to conceptualize an understanding of physics ideas, to be able to discuss and to explain the concepts and develop their own problem-solving strategies based on the topics learned.