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lewelma

Physics for Poets: my attempt at a living-books approach to physics

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I've been asked in this thread http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/489738-living-books-approach-to-9th-grade-biology/ to write a living books approach to physics.  Although I am a qualified teacher in all sciences, my speciality is biology, so I am sure that others (obviously Regentrude) will have suggestions to improve this plan.  I hope that it is helpful to all the poets out there (read humanity types) who want to be educated in physics, but don't have an interest in using a mathematical or textbook-based approach.  I have found this week-long project to be fascinating!
 

See post 25 for an explanation of *why* I designed this course in this manner.
 
Physics for Poets: a living books approach to physics
 
This will be a conceptual class using 'living books.' It is not a history of science or a study of the biographies of scientists. It is about understanding physics concepts. This class is at a high school level, so although no textbook will be used, the resources chosen are targeted at a reasonably high level. This class could be taught with or without a lab component.
 
GOALS:
1) To understand why objects behave as they do
2) To understand how technology works
3) To study modern physics
4) To understand physics issues in the news
 
 
OBJECTIVES:
1) To gain a general understanding of basic physics: mechanics, optics, electromagnetism, modern physics
2) To apply this understanding to everyday objects and observations
3) To research current physics topics and understand the importance of large physics projects like CERN
4) To explain both orally and in writing, the physics behind everyday objects and issues in the news
5) To do practical scientific investigations in physics in order to gain an understanding of the scientific method. I don't have time to plan out the labs, but expect them to take about 4-5 hours each (including write-up), so more like investigations than quicky labs. This adds to 20-25 hours lab work, a bit light but still respectable. I have copied an example investigation at the bottom.
 
 
WORK LOAD
I am assuming 6-8 hours per week which includes reading. Reading classes, like English, require more reading hours, so student might find that 8 hours per week is required.
Read 5 books (averaging about 45 pages per week)
Watch 1 lecture per week
Write 5 small papers
Make 3 presentations
Research and write about 1 larger issue
If the work load is too heavy, drop Physics of the Impossible, and reduce to 30 pages per week on average. Your student should read more on reading-only weeks, so that there is more time for the presentations/writing/investigation weeks.
 
 
RESOURCES
 
Video Lecture
Physics in your life - The Great Courses
 
Unit 1. The Physics of Everyday Objects (Mechanics/motion, optics/waves, electromagnetism, digital/machines): 15 weeks. (40 pages/week)
 
1)The New ï¼·ay Things Work. Macaulay (400 pages)
2) For the Love of Physics: From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge of Time - A Journey Through the Wonders of Physics. Lewin. (pages 1-188 only)
 
Unit 2. Modern physics: 17 weeks. (40 pages/week for 15 weeks, then 60 pages/week for last 6 week of the easy read)

3)  How to teach physics to your dog. Orzel(250 pages)
4) Physics of the impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel (350 pages)
5)  Lightweight book: choose one from these three
5a) Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. Feynman. Biography (350 pages) (see Regentrude's post #15 below about possible inappropriate content)
5b) Both The Wizard of Quarks and Alice in Quantumland (380 pages together)
5c) The Physics of Superheros (380 pages)
 
For students with a more mathematical bend, replace selections 2, 3, or 4 with one of these selections, and remove the lightweight book to make more time for the harder selection.
6) The physics of football (300 pages)
7) A Brief History of Time. Hawking. The physics of astronomy. (340 pages)
8) Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory. Gamow. Requires some algebra but not more advanced math. (240 pages)
 
For students with less time or less-skilled students, remove either For the Love of Physics or Physics of the Impossible (depending on interest), thus dropping out all reading for the last 6 weeks so the student can focus on his/her research paper.
 
Unit 3: Research paper on Socio-Scientifc issue
Student selected resources.  Useful websites listed below.
 
 
SCHEDULE: 6-8 hours per week. 36 weeks.
 
Unit 1. The physics of everyday objects (weeks 1-15)
Watch: Lectures 1-15
Read: How Things Work and For the Love of Physics. 40 pages per week
Present: Three 20-minute presentation on the most interesting objects you have studied
Write: Three 2-page papers explaining in your own words the physics behind everyday objects (see at the bottom of this post for ideas)
Investigate: Three topics
 
Weeks:
1-2 Read, prepare presentation on mechanics
3-4 Read, write 2-page paper on mechanics
5 Read, investigation #1
6-7 Read, prepare presentation on waves/optics
8-9 Read, write 2-page paper on waves/optics
10 Read, investigation #2
11-12 Read, prepare presentation on electromagnetism
13-14 Read, write 2-page paper on electromagnetism
15 Read, investigation #3
 
Unit 2: Modern physics (weeks 16-32)
Watch: Lectures 16-32
Read: How to teach physics to your dog; and Physics of the Impossible; and begin one of the lightweight books
Research: Two topics in modern physics
Write: Two 4-page papers on modern physics (see bottom of this post for ideas).
Investigate: 2 topics
 
Weeks:
19-21 Read book
22 Read, Research topic on modern physics
23 Read, Write 4-page paper
24 Read, Investigation #4
25-27 Read book
28 Read, Research topic on modern physics
29 Read, Write 4-page paper
30 Read, Investigation #5
 
Unit 3: Research paper on Socio-Scientifc issue (weeks 33-36)
Choose one topic that is particularly interesting to you and do an in-depth study. Write a 10-page research paper both describing the issue, persuading the reader to either support or decline funding to the area of research (see bottom of this post for ideas).
 
Watch: Lectures 33-36
Read: Finish lightweight book
Research: One large topic
Write: One 10-page paper
 
Weeks:
33-34 Research
35-36 Plan and write 10-page paper
 
Useful websites
 
Physics in the news
http://www.physics.org/news.asp
http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/matter_energy/physics/
http://phys.org/physics-news/
http://www.physnews.com/
 
Investigations
http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/wop/homeexpphys.html
http://seniorphysics.com/physics/eei.html
http://www.sciencefairadventure.com/Physics.aspx
http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics
http://www.courseworkbank.info/Dndex.php?d=R0NTRS9QaHlzaWNz&catagory=
PhET simulations
Physics Fun and Beyond
 
 
ASSESSMENT
3 Presentations
5 Papers
1 Large research paper
5 Investigations
 
IDEAS FOR WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
 
After writing up the above plan, I went looking for resources to augment the books. I found to my utter amazement, that the NZ 12th grade physics curriculum includes the exact same writing assignments :blink:  (yes, apparently great minds think alike :thumbup:). So I have included here the description of the writing assignments to give some clarity to what I was talking about:
 
UNIT 1: Demonstrate understanding of the application of physics to a selected context
 
Option 1. Semiconducting
Today’s society is very reliant on the use of electronic devices. These devices make use of semiconductors, therefore understanding how semiconductors (and the electronic components they are made of) are used in modern technology is increasingly important. Apply your understanding of physics to a real life context. You need to apply your knowledge of circuits and semiconductor physics to the function of a semiconductor component used in an electronic device. Possible electronic devices:

  • light emitting diode (LED)
  • photodiode
  • bipolar junction transistor (MOSFET, CMOS, JFET)
  • light dependent resistor (LDR)
  • thermistor.

Research your chosen electronic device. Using your knowledge of circuits and semiconductor physics, explain the function of a semiconductor component used in the electronic device. You are encouraged to use diagrams and pictures to support your explanations. You need to clearly link key physics ideas together to provide a coherent picture of the physics relevant to the semiconductor component.
 
Option 2. Other ideas

  • General – bridge building, musical instruments, sound recording, stellar evolution, radio astronomy, and particle accelerators
  • Specific – GPS and the Large Hadron Collider.

Investigate how physics applies to your chosen context. You need to clearly link key physics ideas together to provide a coherent picture of the physics relevant to your selected context. You may choose: producing a written report, preparing an oral presentation (with handouts), preparing a multi-media presentation, or constructing a poster.
 
UNIT 2: Demonstrate understanding of Modern Physics
 
Option 1. Nuclear fusion by 2030
Write a report for your local council about the physics of producing power using nuclear fusion. Research the subject. Write your report. In it, explain clearly the physics concepts and principles at work in a nuclear fusion power generator. Explain also how these concepts and principles work in conjunction with each other to create energy. Based on the physics, discuss the potential of nuclear power as a future energy source for your locality. Conclude your report with a recommendation(s) to the local council. They should be well supported by your earlier explanations of the relevant physics.
 
Option 2. High-powered solar cells
Write a report for your local electricity lines business (ELB) about the physics of solar cells. Research the subject. Write your report. In it, explain clearly the physics concepts and principles at work in a high-powered solar cell. Explain also how these concepts and principles work in conjunction with each other to create energy. Based on the physics, discuss the potential of high-powered solar cells as a future renewable energy source for your locality. Conclude your report with a recommendation(s) to the ELB. They should be well supported by your earlier explanations of the relevant physics.
 
UNIT 3:  Use physics knowledge to develop an informed response to a socio-scientific issue
 
Option 1. Should your locality remain ‘nuclear power’ free?
Conduct research on electrical energy generation using nuclear power. Develop an informed personal response to the issue of your locality remaining nuclear power free based on the physics knowledge. The format of your response is an opinion article for the editorial pages of a newspaper. To prepare for this article you will research and explain the key physics ideas relating to electrical energy generation using nuclear power, identifying the potential benefits and risks to your locality. The benefits and risks may be related to economic, ethical, biological, or environmental factors. Keep a research log book (or folder/electronic record). All your research notes, outlines, drafts, and so on must be kept in this log book. You need to date your work and reference your sources as you take notes. Hand in your log book with your final article. In your article:

  • provide key physics knowledge that includes:
  • key physics concepts and processes that relate to electrical energy generation through the use of nuclear power
  • physics and social implications – the benefits and risks (for example, economic, ethical, biological or environmental) of nuclear power
  • use the key physics knowledge you have gathered to state your personal position and recommended action(s) about your locality remaining nuclear power free
  • justify your position and action(s) by providing supporting evidence to explain why you chose your position and action(s)
  • analyse and prioritise the physics knowledge used to justify your position and recommended action(s). This may include:
  • comparing the significance of implications of the issue on individuals and society
  • considering the likely effectiveness of identified action(s)
  • commenting on sources and information, considering ideas such as validity (date, peer reviewed, scientific acceptance), bias (attitudes, values, beliefs), weighing up how science ideas are used by different groups.

Option 2. Renewable energy technology in new buildings – should it be compulsory?
In January 2011, scientists published peer-reviewed findings that suggested global energy demands could be reduced by 73% using energy efficient technologies in buildings, industries and transport. Your local council is investigating the feasibility of requiring renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines to be compulsory for new buildings. You are the consultant hired to prepare a presentation on this socio-scientific issue for their consideration. Use your physics knowledge to develop an informed response to a socio-scientific issue related to renewable energy technology.
You are required to develop a presentation that:

  • gives an informed personal response to the issue of whether renewable energy technology in new buildings should be compulsory
  • includes recommendations of actions that could be taken as a result of your informed position.

Research the physics of renewable energy technologies for buildings. This may include photo-voltaic solar panels and wind turbines, identifying the short and long-term benefits and drawbacks to individuals and society. The benefits and drawbacks may be related to an economic, ethical or environmental issue. Develop an informed personal response to your chosen issue of whether renewable energy technology in new buildings should be compulsory, based on physics knowledge. Develop suggestions for actions that could be taken. You will be assessed on the overall comprehensiveness of your presentation, whether it explains the relevant physics ideas, and your analysis and discussion of the issue(s). Keep a research logbook to record your notes, references, article outlines or plans, drafts of paragraphs, comments on the validity, bias or purpose of resources, and so on. This information will help you to prepare and refine your presentation.
Topics you need to cover in your presentation

  • provide physics knowledge that includes:
  • physics concepts and processes that relate to the renewable energy technology for buildings. This may include ideas such as energy storage/links to the national grid, conversion between AC and DC, voltage and frequency considerations etc.
  • a comparison of the renewable technologies in buildings with the technologies currently used to provide electricity
  • physics related to social implications – this may include possible short and long-term benefits and drawbacks to individuals, society and the environment
  • use the physics knowledge you have gathered to state your personal position and recommend action(s) about compulsory renewable energy technology in new buildings
  • justify your position and action(s) by providing supporting evidence to explain why you chose your position and action(s)
  • analyse and prioritise the physics knowledge used to justify your position and recommended action(s). This may include:
  • comparing the significance of implications of the issue on individuals and society
  • considering the likely effectiveness of the identified action(s)
  • commenting on sources and information, considering ideas such as validity (date, peer reviewed, scientific acceptance) and bias (attitudes, values, beliefs), and weighing up how science ideas are used by different groups.

EXAMPLE OF AN INVESTIGATION
 
Baby bouncers behave differently for different sized babies. This assessment activity involves modelling a ‘baby bouncer’ using a spring-mass system in order to test a physics theory involving two variables in a non-linear relationship. You will take suitable measurements, use techniques to maximise accuracy, process and graph the collected data, determine the equation of the non-linear relationship and critically compare this with the theoretical relationship between the variables.
 
Plan and prepare the investigation
The aim of the investigation is to find out how the period of oscillation, T, is affected by the mass, m, which is suspended on the spring.
Construct a spring-mass system to model a baby bouncer.
 
Gather data
When gathering your data:

  • gather a reasonable range of data points
  • plot the data points and conduct graphical analysis
  • decide what kind of relationship exists between the variables.

Account for accuracy and uncertainty in your measurements at all steps during the investigation.
 
Analyse data
To analyse your data:
        Process your data, including uncertainties
        Transform your processed data in a way that allows you to plot a suitable linear graph that shows uncertainties
       Determine a mathematical relationship based on your linear graphs that links the period of oscillation, T, and the mass, m.
 
Write the report
Write your report using the data that you have gathered and analysed. In your report include:

  • a summary of the investigative process
  • a detailed presentation of your results and analysis, including graphical analysis that includes uncertainties
  • a conclusion that states the equation of the relationship between the variables and compares this to the physics theory
  • identification of how other uncontrollable variables may have affected the results
  • consideration of the limitations of the theory’s applicability in the practical situation and/or at the extreme values of the independent variable
  • a discussion of any unexpected outcomes of the processing of the results and how these have been caused and their impact on the validity of the experiment.
  • Thanks 1

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Ruth,

forgive me for critiquing your job, but do you really consider the Flying Circus as suitable for humanities minded students who never had physics?

I do not find the book easy to read, certainly not what I would call a "living book", and it uses a lot of vocabulary that would make little sense to a student who does not have a physics background (the author assumes a basic physics or physical science course as prerequisite). I found that the book assumes a familiarity with underlying concepts and only mentions in passing facts like " a curved parabolic path as required by gravitation" or relationships between forces and acceleration.

I am wondering whether a student who has not encountered definitions for torque, friction, center of mass, kinetic energy etc before will really understand sentences like "the torques put on the car by the frictional forces on the wheels tend to pitch the car forward by attempting to rotate the car around a horizontal axis through its center of mass" or "the counterweight was allowed to fall so that some of the gravitational potential energy stored in it by the men could be transferred to the kinetic energy of the projectile"  (these sentences occur on day 1 or day 2 of your reading schedule.)

 

I see the Flying Circus as a fabulous supplement for a student who took a prior physics course, is familiar with the basic simple examples and wants to deal with more intriguing, more difficult phenomena. I'd see it as great additional reading for science major with a strong interest in physics, but I would not consider it suitable for your "poets" with no physics background.

I also find 50 pages per week extremely ambitious, as this is not easy reading; even though this is not a textbook the information is very dense and the student needs to mull over the individual explanations in order to truly understand what is going on.

 

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I'm not a physics expert but I live with two physics-loving guys so just some quick thoughts (from an unqualified person, sorry).

My concern is using The New Way Things Work at a high school level.

For those who don't mind textbook supplements, perhaps try Bloomfield's book? I guess you left out Hewitt's Conceptual Physics because it's also a textbook right?

 

For those with higher budgets and not too put off by junior high-ish level math, I was wondering if Derek Owens's physical science course might work for added visual reinforcement at least.

 

More suggestions for investigations:

PhET simulations

Physics Fun and Beyond (colorful book, fun projects at about a junior high to high school level but without the math...looks good for middle schoolers too although their exec function skills might not yet be ready for some of the projects)

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Ruth,

forgive me for critiquing your job, but do you really consider the Flying Circus as suitable for humanities minded students who never had physics?

I do not find the book easy to read, certainly not what I would call a "living book",

 

I also find 50 pages per week extremely ambitious, as this is not easy reading; even though this is not a textbook the information is very dense and the student needs to mull over the individual explanations in order to truly understand what is going on.

 

Thank you so much for your input!  I like the look of it, but I have not read it and clearly misidentified the level it was pitched to. I will go hunt down something easier and replace it.  Perhaps the Feynman book could replace it, but then I am definitely overloaded in modern physics. Do you have a recommendation?

 

As for work load, how about 40 pages without the tougher book? I'm picturing the goal of 10 pages per hour.  Is this realistic?  Sometimes it is easy to forget how hard this material can be for a newbie.  I think 10 pages per day is definitely doable for The New Way Things Work and for the Feynman book.  I will look more closely at the other 2 books.

 

I'm seeing it something like for 7 hours per week:

Reading only weeks:

5 days reading: 6 hours (60 pages those weeks)

1 hour lecture

 

mixed weeks:

2 days reading: 3 hours (30 pages those weeks)

1 hour lecture

3 days write up/presentation/investigation

 

I'm open to suggestions.  I really do want to make this plan usable. 

 

Ruth in NZ

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I'm not a physics expert but I live with two physics-loving guys so just some quick thoughts (from an unqualified person, sorry).

My concern is using The New Way Things Work at a high school level.

For those who don't mind textbook supplements, perhaps try Bloomfield's book? I guess you left out Hewitt's Conceptual Physics because it's also a textbook right?

 

For those with higher budgets and not too put off by junior high-ish level math, I was wondering if Derek Owens's physical science course might work for added visual reinforcement at least.

 

More suggestions for investigations:

PhET simulations

Physics Fun and Beyond (colorful book, fun projects at about a junior high to high school level but without the math...looks good for middle schoolers too although their exec function skills might not yet be ready for some of the projects)

 

Thanks Quark!  I think you are plenty qualified to comment given how many resources you have seen and used! I considered the Bloomfield's book, but with the goal of no textbooks, I kicked it out.  If I could be assured of continual access to his coursera class I would have definitely put that in.  Also, given how many resources you have seen, could you please give me a simple living book to replace the one that Regentrude kicked out!

 

I will have to disagree with you about the New Way Things Work as a high school book. It would not be for your son or my son, but I think for kids without a passion for physics, that it is great!  I have been reading it this year.  It is clear, covers all the basics, is welcoming. Plus, part of making this a high school class is how the students *use* the information, so I have put quite a bit of output into this class.  I am hoping that the book leads them to some interesting research to talk/write about.  Kids are typically more passionate if they are directing their own learning, so I am hopeful that it would be a good kickoff point; but even if it isn't, if they actually understand everything in the book, they would be doing pretty well.

 

I don't have any experience with the Derek Owens's class, but happy to link it into the OP.

 

Thanks for the investigation links, I'll add those in too!

 

Ruth in NZ

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My disclaimer is that I've never actually designed a course in such detail with a syllabus and I've never taught physics.   So considering that, please feel free to disregard everything in this post.   Even in the early years when we schooled eclectically, I wouldn't possibly have known ahead of time how much time would be devoted to any one aspect of a course.   I would order books from the library ahead of time, and then we'd work with them letting the time allotted depend upon the material, the interest level, etc..   I'm truly impressed with all the work you've put into planning for the course.   I admit that I don't really understand why some try to avoid textbooks, especially when I've read such great reviews from so many about Hewitt's.   But as textbooks are out, I'd think that the best way to present a syllabus for others to follow, is to actually implement it with your student first.   As nothing is carved in stone with homeschooling, if you get to a book which is just not right, there's no reason it can't be dropped or replaced.   But even if a book works well for one student, that doesn't mean that it will click for the next.   I think you've come up with an awesome list of resources.   Personally, I would just dig in and see where it leads.   But I'd also have something like Hewitt's, or even Apologia's, physics text on hand as a resource for the student.  These are all just some thoughts off the top of my head without really knowing the resources you've listed.

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My disclaimer is that I've never actually designed a course in such detail with a syllabus and I've never taught physics.   So considering that, please feel free to disregard everything in this post.   Even in the early years when we schooled eclectically, I wouldn't possibly have known ahead of time how much time would be devoted to any one aspect of a course.   I would order books from the library ahead of time, and then we'd work with them letting the time allotted depend upon the material, the interest level, etc..   I'm truly impressed with all the work you've put into planning for the course.   I admit that I don't really understand why some try to avoid textbooks, especially when I've read such great reviews from so many about Hewitt's.   But as textbooks are out, I'd think that the best way to present a syllabus for others to follow, is to actually implement it with your student first.   As nothing is carved in stone with homeschooling, if you get to a book which is just not right, there's no reason it can't be dropped or replaced.   But even if a book works well for one student, that doesn't mean that it will click for the next.   I think you've come up with an awesome list of resources.   Personally, I would just dig in and see where it leads.   But I'd also have something like Hewitt's, or even Apologia's, physics text on hand as a resource for the student.  These are all just some thoughts off the top of my head without really knowing the resources you've listed.

 

I totally see where you are coming from. But there are some people who want a plan, some even want a very specific plan.  But I would hope that anyone who might use this plan would feel free to change it to their student's needs!

 

My main goal was to demonstrate how to make a living books class that is not just 'here are some books, go read them.'  A high school class has output, and I wanted to show how the output could be papers/presentations instead of tests, even for physics. 

 

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Since you list optional books by order of difficulty, is it possible that Stephen Hawking's, A Briefer History of Time might be a contender along with A Brief History of Time? I don't really know the difference between the two though.

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  Perhaps the Feynman book could replace it, but then I am definitely overloaded in modern physics. Do you have a recommendation?

 

Sorry, no recommendation; I do not know many "living" books in physics and generally dislike the ones I have seen. I can't seem to learn physics from reading non-fiction; in order to absorb and understand complex concepts I have to write things down and work problems, and the "livingness" of living books tends to encourage cursory reading instead of in-depth study, at least for me.

 

The Feynman book is one of my favorite books, but it is a book about the person Feynman and not about physics. There is barely any physics in Surely you are joking. (As a side note, while it does not bother me, parents who are more conservative in this respect might appreciate a heads-up that hooking up and casual sex play a role in the book.)

There is more physics content in Feynman's other book What do you care what other people think. There he writes in some detail about his involvement with the investigation about the causes of the Challenger disaster.

 

As for work load, how about 40 pages without the tougher book? I'm picturing the goal of 10 pages per hour.  Is this realistic?  Sometimes it is easy to forget how hard this material can be for a newbie.

 

I do not know the book, so can't comment. If the student has to take notes on the reading, slower is better. It is my experience that, if the student does not take notes, he likely won't learn much physics from it.

 

But I am not the right person to ask about this, because I have some issues with the entire approach, mainly the omission of the quantitative aspect of physics and the passive nature of such a course (just talking about physics instead of actually analyzing and solving problems). Through my experience as an instructor I have come to realize that conceptual understanding can not be separated from working problems, and that the conceptual understanding develops through working problems. I know that the proponents of "physics for poets" consider these two separate achievements, but I have found that not to be the case.

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Ruth,

forgive me for critiquing your job, but do you really consider the Flying Circus as suitable for humanities minded students who never had physics?

I do not find the book easy to read, certainly not what I would call a "living book", and it uses a lot of vocabulary that would make little sense to a student who does not have a physics background (the author assumes a basic physics or physical science course as prerequisite). I found that the book assumes a familiarity with underlying concepts and only mentions in passing facts like " a curved parabolic path as required by gravitation" or relationships between forces and acceleration.

I am wondering whether a student who has not encountered definitions for torque, friction, center of mass, kinetic energy etc before will really understand sentences like "the torques put on the car by the frictional forces on the wheels tend to pitch the car forward by attempting to rotate the car around a horizontal axis through its center of mass" or "the counterweight was allowed to fall so that some of the gravitational potential energy stored in it by the men could be transferred to the kinetic energy of the projectile" (these sentences occur on day 1 or day 2 of your reading schedule.)

 

I see the Flying Circus as a fabulous supplement for a student who took a prior physics course, is familiar with the basic simple examples and wants to deal with more intriguing, more difficult phenomena. I'd see it as great additional reading for science major with a strong interest in physics, but I would not consider it suitable for your "poets" with no physics background.

I also find 50 pages per week extremely ambitious, as this is not easy reading; even though this is not a textbook the information is very dense and the student needs to mull over the individual explanations in order to truly understand what is going on.

This is totally off topic for Ruth's OP, but your post had me thinking about a lot of posts I have read in general where I wonder about the above exactly. I see a large number of people using TC's astronomy (not star-gazing) courses with younger kids that have never taken any physics. It is great that they enjoy them, etc, but I wonder if they realize just how much they don't really understand? (Sorta like....the more you know, the more you realize you don't know kind of thing.). I know some of them ds has watched multiple times in order to fully understand. (So I know younger kids w/no physics are not really understanding large portions that they might think they do.)

 

I guess similarly, if someone who didn't really understand physics read the mentioned book (which I know nothing about), would they recognize just how much went over their heads? Based on the TC lectures, I would say no. ;)

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But I am not the right person to ask about this, because I have some issues with the entire approach, mainly the omission of the quantitative aspect of physics and the passive nature of such a course (just talking about physics instead of actually analyzing and solving problems)

As the OP of the other thread asking for a Living Books approach to Physics, I actually agree with you.  Perhaps I should have said that I wanted a Living Ideas approach to Physics.  I don't have the expertise, but I wish that I had such a good understanding of physics so that I could teach physics without a textbook simply by getting involved in hands on problems and then using real life explanations of how it all works.  

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Thanks Quark!  I think you are plenty qualified to comment given how many resources you have seen and used!

 

:001_wub: Aww, thank you Ruth.

 

 

I considered the Bloomfield's book, but with the goal of no textbooks, I kicked it out.  If I could be assured of continual access to his coursera class I would have definitely put that in.  Also, given how many resources you have seen, could you please give me a simple living book to replace the one that Regentrude kicked out!

 

I really like Thinking Physics by Epstein and I think it's more approachable than Flying Circus but I'm not sure if it will fit the X hours of reading per week approach. He approaches physics from a very thoughtful perspective and the student might need time to think each problem through. Unfortunately, prices are really crazy on Amazon atm. I bought a used copy for about $20+ several years ago.

 

I am considering adding the collection of readings in What's the Matter: Readings in Physics put out by the Great Books Foundation at some point to our biography studies, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I have not read it in depth. There's an intro to the scientist's work, an essay by the scientist, and some content questions followed by discussion questions and recommended readings at the end of the essay. Sample here (Einstein).

 

Other titles/ authors for interested parents to check out (mostly modern physics):

Michio Kaku

Robert Gillmore

Physics of Superheroes/ Star Trek etc

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This is totally off topic for Ruth's OP, but your post had me thinking about a lot of posts I have read in general where I wonder about the above exactly. I see a large number of people using TC's astronomy (not star-gazing) courses with younger kids that have never taken any physics. It is great that they enjoy them, etc, but I wonder if they realize just how much they don't really understand? (Sorta like....the more you know, the more you realize you don't know kind of thing.). I know some of them ds has watched multiple times in order to fully understand. (So I know younger kids w/no physics are not really understanding large portions that they might think they do.)

 

I guess similarly, if someone who didn't really understand physics read the mentioned book (which I know nothing about), would they recognize just how much went over their heads? Based on the TC lectures, I would say no. ;)

 

For younger kids in question, if the parent is careful to present it with the idea that it's just a taster course then I see no harm because it's just drawing the kid in and quenching an interest ya? Somewhat like a jumping off point with the understanding that you are barely at the tip of the physics iceberg. Very important for the parent to not assume that the TC course is going to offer in depth coverage. And also why I am cautioning parents I know IRL who are using Bloomfield's Coursera course into not assuming they are really covering physics. They are covering some aspects of it but there's so much more Bloomfield cannot go into due to the nature of MOOCs and his course objectives itself.

 

Bolded: I like the living books approach because it helps a non-expert like me to at least come a millimeter closer to understanding science but I agree with you completely. From personal experience I have no idea how much I am missing myself. Even after taking algebra based physics in high school many moons ago and reading as many living books as I can. It's when I listen to a lecture with DH, a physics grad and complete fan of the subject, that I come much closer to really growing and learning from the courses. Even then, I don't realize how much goes over my head!

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For younger kids in question, if the parent is careful to present it with the idea that it's just a taster course then I see no harm because it's just drawing the kid in and quenching an interest ya? Somewhat like a jumping off point with the understanding that you are barely at the tip of the physics iceberg. Very important for the parent to not assume that the TC course is going to offer in depth coverage. And also why I am cautioning parents I know IRL who are using Bloomfield's Coursera course into not assuming they are really covering physics. They are covering some aspects of it but there's so much more Bloomfield cannot go into due to the nature of MOOCs and his course objectives itself.

 

I think 8 is actually saying the opposite. The treatment of astronomy in the course is very thorough, and the problem lies not with the course per se, but with watching the course without the necessary prerequisites.

The situation with Bloomfield is completely different; there the course just touches on the content and does not go far enough.

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I think 8 is actually saying the opposite. The treatment of astronomy in the course is very thorough, and the problem lies not with the course per se, but with watching the course without the necessary prerequisites.

The situation with Bloomfield is completely different; there the course just touches on the content and does not go far enough.

 

Ah, mea culpa. (ETA I got carried away there! :tongue_smilie: ) I haven't watched that course yet. My response was due to parents I know who consider their younger kids watching TC physics lectures as doing high school level work in physics.

 

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Ah, mea culpa. I haven't watched that course yet. My response was due to parents I know who consider their younger kids watching TC physics lectures as doing high school level work in physics.

 

Exactly. No way. :). Ds watched the dark matter lectures last yr while reading heavy duty books on the topic. He told me last yr that some of the pts were beyond his current level. ;) Since he was aware of not not having full grasp on some of the concepts, how aware are those who have never really studied physics? Based on the comments I have read, they think they understand all of it. :)

 

Watching them to spark an interest at a young age is one thing, but watching them thinking they are fully engaged with all the content is another. (Eta: and, yes, agreeing with Regentrude, the TC astronomy and physics lectures actually go into far more depth than high school level which you only pick up on if you understand the actual physics.)

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Exactly. No way. :). Ds watched the dark matter lectures last yr while reading heavy duty books on the topic. He told me last yr that some of the pts were beyond his current level. ;) Since he was aware of not not having full grasp on some of the concepts, how aware are those who have never really studied physics? Based on the comments I have read, they think they understand all of it. :)

 

Which is the problem I see with "living books" as well. Something that is well written and reads almost without effort suggests a much greater depth of understanding than is actually the case.

 

(Maybe I am just too stupid. I do not understand Hawking, and I do not understand the Elegant Universe either, and I did not understand everything in Fermat's Last theorem, a beautifully written book for the general public that goes way beyond my math background)

 

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Ruth, I think I love you. This thread is so very timely for us - the Pearson's IGCSE textbook has been declared painfully dull, so I'm looking for ways to engage & entertain, whilst still covering the required material.

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Thanks everyone for all the really interesting ideas and opinions. It will take me a while to look through all the resources, but I will get there.

 

As for the living books approach, I think that there *are* students out there that simply will not engage with a conceptual physics textbook let alone a mathematical one.  I thought for a very long time about the goals for this course and what the assessments would be.  There are no tests, thus there is no expectation that a student will really learn lots of material on a very specific level.  There are a lot of research papers, which require the student to hunt for answers.  I did this on purpose.  For students who care very little for physics and are not motivated to take a mathematical class, I want them to have experience with looking up things they don't know.  To not be afraid of not understanding, but to rather have a desire and the know-how to fix their ignorance.  All the papers and presentations also force the student to be able to *explain* the conceptual workings of whatever he/she chooses to research.  At the end of the course I would expect the student to have a vague/general feeling for a wide variety of concepts in physics, and to have more specific knowledge in the areas they chose to research.  I also want them to be pleased that they have spent a year of their life studying physics and feel that it was worth their time.

 

In the end, an algebraic working knowledge of mechanics or optics is not really going to help a humanities-type understand issues in the news (CERN, nuclear power, etc), especially if a mathematical approach causes them to dread/hate all things physics.  At some point, my overarching goal is to draw them in.  Let them experience some success with physics by using the tools of *their* trade - reading and writing; rather than the tools of our trade - math and the scientific method.  Obviously, these students will not be as well prepared as if they liked physics and were willing to study the mathematics of physics.  But sometimes you need to work with what you have.

 

Ruth in NZ

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I do not know the book, so can't comment. If the student has to take notes on the reading, slower is better. It is my experience that, if the student does not take notes, he likely won't learn much physics from it.

I completely agree that just reading does not lead to learning. I often see people interested in a living books approach just hand a bunch of books to their students, and I wanted in my OP to demonstrate *how much* writing is required for retention. A couple of papers is not going to cut it. I do think that students will have to take some notes in order to write the papers and give the presentations. So I expect that they will remember their papers/presentations much better than just the reading. This is fine for my goals. The books are supposed to help the student identify something they want to learn more about through research and writing.

 

Through my experience as an instructor I have come to realize that conceptual understanding can not be separated from working problems, and that the conceptual understanding develops through working problems. I know that the proponents of "physics for poets" consider these two separate achievements, but I have found that not to be the case.

I completely respect your experience as an instructor. My guess is that the students that would use a 'living books' approach in high school won't actually gain a strong conceptual understanding regardless of the instructional approach used. My first goal is to change their attitude about physics in the hopes that they have a lifetime to improve their knowledge. I have met MANY people who refuse to even discuss scientific issues because they 'took science in school and hated it.' Any high school physics they had learned had long been forgotten from disuse, and no additional effort was *ever* made to learn. These adults are completely scientifically illiterate, and have no interest in changing. At some point you have to *want* to learn.

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Ruth, thank you for taking the time to explain about the living books approach and your goals for your course.   Being able to cater to the student's specific needs is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling.   Thank you for the reminder.   :001_smile:

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I've gone through all the suggestions here (plus those on the other thread), and made a number of changes to the resources list. I tried to pick the most readable books and have some variety in presentation style.  Obviously, you need to tailor the reading to your student's skill level.

 

Still open to other suggestions.

 

Ruth in NZ

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Ah, mea culpa. (ETA I got carried away there! :tongue_smilie: ) I haven't watched that course yet. My response was due to parents I know who consider their younger kids watching TC physics lectures as doing high school level work in physics.

 

I'd say the issue is more that watching isn't doing. A student who watches a presentation passively often gets less out of it than someone actively working in the subject, even if they are working at a lower level than the presentation.

 

Or put in a humanities context, I can get a lot out of a lecture on a book or play. But I would not say that listening is equivalent to actually reading the work.

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Thanks for the thread!

I'm thinking ahead to the next two years for my "history" guy.

 

There have been several valid points made in all the posts. Regentrude is correct in saying that a real understanding of physics can only come through working problems. I do agree, however, with others pointing out that for some students an "introduction" to the "concepts" is the best course to take.

 

When I was in college all the physics courses began with what we called "Baby Physics".  It was a lecture course with the prof explaining terminology, giving real life examples, and SHOWING some of the formulas and calculations that would be taught in higher level courses.  Using classical education lingo.... it was a "grammar- stage" course.  (If I remember correctly, we had a mid term and final that was all multiple choice questions.)

 

I've watched several good documentaries over the years that introduce physics concepts. Those with Neil deGraff ( name incorrect, i'm sure) specifically come to mind.  Several years ago he narrated a Nova series on Quantum Physics (terminology incorrect too probably).... I certainly do not "understand".... but I have a general idea of the concept.

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I've watched several good documentaries over the years that introduce physics concepts. Those with Neil deGraff ( name incorrect, i'm sure) specifically come to mind. Several years ago he narrated a Nova series on Quantum Physics (terminology incorrect too probably).... I certainly do not "understand".... but I have a general idea of the concept.

Fwiw, quark and I were both referring to moms of young kids (not high schoolers....we are talking elementary age kids) that believe their kids are doing high school level physics/astronomy by watching these lectures.

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I have nothing useful to add to this interesting thread, but wanted to share with Regentrude that my dad, who was a physics professor and excellent musician, developed a course on acoustics just for music majors who needed to fill a science requirement.  He passed away before he could complete writing a text book for the course.  I was still in high school at the time, but I love the memory of him working so hard to bring the joy of physics to non-majors.  He used to borrow my toys to add to demonstrations in the lecture hall.

 

I myself am a huge fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson because he writes so very clearly and his enthusiasm and excitement about what he does shines through is work.

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As the OP of the other thread asking for a Living Books approach to Physics, I actually agree with you.  Perhaps I should have said that I wanted a Living Ideas approach to Physics.  I don't have the expertise, but I wish that I had such a good understanding of physics so that I could teach physics without a textbook simply by getting involved in hands on problems and then using real life explanations of how it all works.

 

I think that it often takes a deeper understanding to teach something independent of a textbook or structured syllabus than it does with one.

 

When dh was in college, the only physics class that met his scheduling requirements was a course intended as an intro for science majors. The professor was using the class to test out activities designed to illustrate physics with common toys. This book, Teaching Physics with Toys was written as a joint venture between members of the physics department and the education department.

 

I don't think it would be a good stand alone physics book, but it does have some good demonstrations of principles that help the concepts come to life.

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I think that it often takes a deeper understanding to teach something independent of a textbook or structured syllabus than it does with one.

 

When dh was in college, the only physics class that met his scheduling requirements was a course intended as an intro for science majors. The professor was using the class to test out activities designed to illustrate physics with common toys. This book, Teaching Physics with Toys was written as a joint venture between members of the physics department and the education department.

 

I don't think it would be a good stand alone physics book, but it does have some good demonstrations of principles that help the concepts come to life.

Yes, I agree that it does take a deeper understanding.  It's just that people seem to be interpreting a "living books" approach with something that is lighter for non-science people.  That isn't where I was coming from.  In fact, my son is shooting for a STEM major in college.  To me, a living books approach can be quite rigorous and actually calls for and elicits even more thought because it inspires you and sets your mind on fire.  Perhaps because I'm a Visual Spatial learner and so are my children, we like the whole-part learning of a Living books approach to learning.    But. . . that may not be what others respond to in a living books approach or even what they want.  

 

I'll look for that book, Sebastian!  

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Yes, I agree that it does take a deeper understanding. It's just that people seem to be interpreting a "living books" approach with something that is lighter for non-science people. That isn't where I was coming from. In fact, my son is shooting for a STEM major in college. To me, a living books approach can be quite rigorous and actually calls for and elicits even more thought because it inspires you and sets your mind on fire. Perhaps because I'm a Visual Spatial learner and so are my children, we like the whole-part learning of a Living books approach to learning. But. . . that may not be what others respond to in a living books approach or even what they want.

 

I'll look for that book, Sebastian!

While I am all for the non-textbook approach to science prior to high school level credit (and it is the only way we do science up to that pt), I personally don't see a feasible way to approach high school level science the same way, especially for future stem majors.

 

I don't know if you are interested in a physics program that has unique "labs" but my ds loved Kinetic Books virtual labs when he did that course. The labs were video games and the students had to use the correct equations, forces, etc in order to make the video games function.

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While I am all for the non-textbook approach to science prior to high school level credit (and it is the only way we do science up to that pt), I personally don't see a feasible way to approach high school level science the same way, especially for future stem majors.

 

I don't know if you are interested in a physics program that has unique "labs" but my ds loved Kinetic Books virtual labs when he did that course. The labs were video games and the students had to use the correct equations, forces, etc in order to make the video games function.

Oh, I haven't been brave enough (yet)  to actually go non-textbook in high school.  Well, except for robotics.  We are doing that without a textbook.  I will look into that physics program.  

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Just to be clear, I am a textbook supporter.  I have written extensively in this thread about why I think that students should learn to use textbooks.

 

I wrote this living-books physics plan because 1) I was asked, and 2) no student will study *all* subjects systematically and extensively.  There is a middle ground between not taking a subject and studying it in depth.  I would like to think that my plan represents a middle-ground option for physics.

 

Ruth in NZ

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Just to be clear, I am a textbook supporter.  I have written extensively in this thread about why I think that students should learn to use textbooks.

 

I wrote this living-books physics plan because 1) I was asked, and 2) no student will study *all* subjects systematically and extensively.  There is a middle ground between not taking a subject and studying it in depth.  I would like to think that my plan represents a middle-ground option for physics.

 

Ruth in NZ

I guess my question would be: "what the course would be called on the transcript?".  If it is called Physics for Poets, that tells more than if it gets tagged Physics and thus compared to a traditional Physics class.

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You put this together all yourself?! 

 

Yes.  :001_smile: Although I did summarize assignment descriptions that I found met my requirements.

 

I like a good education project to really think about -- this one took more than a week to plan including multiple hours a day of just thinking while doing chores (I just finished my audio book and had not picked a new one yet).  But in addition, after doing all the work, I think this plan will work very well for my younger in 8th grade with a reduced reading/writing load.

 

Ruth

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I guess my question would be: "what the course would be called on the transcript?".  If it is called Physics for Poets, that tells more than if it gets tagged Physics and thus compared to a traditional Physics class.

 

It *is* a physics class. Not honors. But it still is a high school level course.  So personally, I would call it Physics.  Alternatively you could call it Conceptual Physics. 

 

It definitely contains more material than the physics class that was offered at my highschool a few decades ago.  To give you a feel for its level, they spent 6 full weeks writing a poem in class (and for homework) that was about physics.  And it appeared on the transcript as "Physics." Not all high school classes are at the typical WTM high-school board level which as far as I can tell is pretty high!

 

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A thought...

 

In my mind, a course like the one that Ruth has put together (bravo, Ruth!) reminds me of a course we used to have here in Ontario when we still had Grade 13.  It was called "Science in Society" and it was basically a senior science course meant for humanities-bound students.  It was not math based at all.  If I remember correctly, it touched on each of the major sciences (bio, chem, and physics) but from a conceptual standpoint that applied the concepts to what was occurring in the news at the time.  It assumed that the students had already had a brief introduction to each of the sciences (our Grade 9 and 10 sciences are integrated - bio, chem, physics, and earth/space are covered in each grade) but not that they had full course in any of the sciences at the Grade 11 or 12 level.

 

My concern with calling a physics (or chem) course "high school physics (or chem)" on a transcript is that, even if the student is humanities-bound, it's assumed that a high school physics course (even reg physics) is math based.  By calling a non-math based physics course "high school physics", it strikes me as misrepresenting the course on the transcript.  It would be like calling a course "high school english" but not having the student do any writing at all.

 

I do know that there is a very wide range of what constitutes a physics course in the public system but I've never seen any high school physics course that didn't at least contain some math and have the student at least work some problems.  I think the course that Ruth has put together is absolutely wonderful but I just don't think it can be labeled as "high school physics" on a transcript.  I would absolutely agree with calling it "Conceptual Physics in Society" or something along that line but I do think that if a non-math approach is to be used in high school physics or chem, then calling those courses "Reg Physics" or "Reg Chem" on a transcript is mislabeling and misrepresenting the courses.

 

I completely understand your passion for making the sciences available to all students, Ruth!  Please forgive me if it seems as though I was negating your work or your passion! :)  I just wanted to suggest an alternate labeling for the course on a transcript so that the general definition of "Reg Physics" doesn't end up muddied and colleges and universities don't start to wonder if, when homeschoolers state "Reg Physics" on a transcript, they really mean math-based physics or if they mean something else.

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I'm fine with conceptual physics because that is what it is. I'm envisioning a different course for science in society, but I certainly dont have time to write it up now!

 

I'm certainly not up on the current USA transcript standards, but I do wonder how unschoolers write their transcripts for the sciences especially if they don't use textbooks. There seems to be quite a bit of squish in the system.

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I'm fine with conceptual physics because that is what it is. I'm envisioning a different course for science in society, but I certainly dont have time to write it up now!

 

I'm certainly not up on the current USA transcript standards, but I do wonder how unschoolers write their transcripts for the sciences especially if they don't use textbooks. There seems to be quite a bit of squish in the system.

 

:)  There probably is lots of "squish" in the system.  I tend to be kind of a stick-in-the-mud about definitions of high school science courses, I guess.  I worry that, by radically altering the definition of what constitutes a high school science course, then those courses will lose their... Meaning?  Cache?  Trying to think of the appropriate word. :)  High school sciences are difficult, mostly because of the application of math to difficult concepts.  I think a course like the one that you've designed can also be challenging but in a different way.  I was just thinking that we need to differentiate the courses on a transcript to avoid any confusion.  I completely agree that more students need to understand science and a course like yours would go a long way to pull non-science students into science but we need to have some way of telling colleges and universities that Student A took math-based physics and Student B took a conceptual physics course.  "Conceptual Physics" would do the trick nicely. :)

 

I hope that if unschoolers are labeling a course "Reg Physics", then they would have covered a base of topics common to "Reg Physics" courses and made sure that the approach they took involved working problems even if they chose not to use a textbook.  If they chose a different approach and chose not to work any problems, I would hope that they would call the course something else.  But that's just me. :)

 

I do want to say, Ruth, that you've done a wonderful, generous, amazing thing here. :)  Kudos and applause!  :hurray:

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I have not taught physics here yet though I love the ideas presented in this thread.  One book I have already picked up that I think would work well for both middle schoolers and high school is backyard ballistics. I know especially for my ds who thinks school of any sort is torture, a book to make potato cannons and other ballistics to study physics is right up his alley.  I do believe there is a sequel to it as well though I have not checked it out.  For those that are looking for more hands on stuff rather than strictly livingbooks that may be an option worth checking out.

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My ds is taking a textbook Physics course but he loves to read and has read several of these books but there were several we weren't aware of, so I put them on hold at the library. I think this list could also round out a more traditional a Physics class nicely.

 

Thank you for all your hard work!

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Talk about good timing!

 

My 9th gr son was supposed to take Physical Science this year through an outside source but it fell through at the last minute due to low enrollement.

I had no other plans because I thought it was a done deal.

So the last few weeks I've been scrambling to figure out what to do for science (other than have him read the text which is an option, just not the one he was interested in and I didn't blame him). I do have a class for Biology for next year for sure so didn't want to push that to this year but do have the Holt text and student bk as a back up just in case.

 

I have the Great Courses Physics in your Life course already and just gave it to my son 2 weeks ago to start watching since I didn't have a sold plan in place and wanted him to get started with something. I have not watched all the lectures he has (only 1 lecture) but he said while he did not understand everything, they were interesting and he was learning from them. I was going to have him read Science Matters as well.

 

Seeing this outline made me jump for joy! I really want him to get more out of this DVD course and this sounds great.

 

My question is this-he is just taking Algebra 1 this year so will the above syllabus be too hard for him to tackle this year or is it managable?

 

Thanks for any feedback and THANK YOU to the OP for taking the time to put this together.

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My question is this-he is just taking Algebra 1 this year so will the above syllabus be too hard for him to tackle this year or is it managable?

 

Thanks for any feedback and THANK YOU to the OP for taking the time to put this together.

 

There is little to no algebra in the books I chose. Your ds should be fine. If the reading load is too heavy, drop a book.

 

Thanks for the kind words.

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Ruth-

 

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful plans. I find the required output you define especially helpful. I have a junior high humanities loving DS who needs high school level work to challenge him appropriately. I am looking forward to modifying these plans for him. I can even modify the plans for my physics loving DS who is working at a solid junior high level. I am so excited I will be able to keep them studying the same science. We have been using a 8th/9th grade textbook and I am not thrilled with the text for either of them. I have been keeping my eyes open for something that will suit our family better. Thank you for this gift!

 

 

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