Monday, May 18, 2009

Nuclear Phenomenology: A Conceptual Proposal for High School Teaching

I'm all for teaching kids, even at the high school level, various areas and topics in physics. I think going beyond the basic, fundamental topics (such as mechanics, rudimentary E&M, etc.) can stimulate their interest and remove some of the boredom out of studying physics.

Still, I am not sure how effective this would be considering the level of understanding of an average high school student here in the US. The authors are arguing that various concepts in nuclear physics can be introduced effectively at the high school level. Maybe this is more appropriate for educational systems where high school seniors already have some solid understanding of physical chemistry and atomic physics.

I think it would be educational for the general public, though. It presents various nuclear phenomena in simple terms that many people can understand. So it could be useful as a general educational material in nuclear physics.

Any physics high school teachers reading this? What do you think? Would something like this be understandable, or even useful, for your students?



Mr. Noschese said...

I am a physics teacher in NY. Many of these topics mentioned in the paper (A, B, D, G, H) were part of the NYS Regents Chemistry and Physics exams before the curricula were rewritten for 2002. You can look at the archive of exams:

Chem examsPhysics examsTo see what topics are still tested, look at the Core Curriculum guides:

Chem corePhysics core

halfrikaner said...

I'm not a high school teacher, but I worked at Reed College's research reactor while an undergrad. The reactor is almost entirely staffed by undergraduates, many of whom are non-science majors and have almost no understanding of atomic physics before entering the training program. One third of the final NRC exam to get your license covers reactor physics, including some pretty deep topics (various types of radioactive decay, fission, fusion, uranium enrichment, fuel moderation, cerenkov radiation, how various detectors function), but in a way that is largely conceptual. The students learn the physics through independent study and weekly hour-long lectures given by current reactor operators.

If this can be taught by undergraduates to undergraduates, who may or may not have a science background, I can't see why a trained teacher couldn't present the material in an entirely understandable way to sufficiently motivated high school students.

Animastryfe said...

Take a look at the International Baccalaureate program's physics.

J Bowie said...

Yes. I think, in fact I know I have a preAP conceptual physics class that would definitely be able to do this. My students are always looking for something different. This might just be what I/we have been looking for. I'll be looking around for more info.

Jody Bowie
Physics Instructor
Putnam City High School
Oklahoma City, OK