Middle and high school science teachers who seek engaging chances for their students to first watch something happen—and then become curious enough to explore and discover why—should check out two new books by authors Matthew Bobrowsky, Mikko Korhonen, and Jukka Kohtamäki. This trio has teamed up to write two experiment-rich books that offer students the opportunity to observe natural phenomena and then build scientific models and theories based on their observations.
According to the authors, these two books, Using Physical Science Gadgets and Gizmos (Grades 6-8) and Using Physics Gadgets and Gizmos (Grades 9-12), take an “approach to learning that is based on curiosity and creativity—a fun way to learn!”
Phenomenon-based learning (PBL) forms the pedagogical foundation for each of these books and is described as building learning on observations of real-world phenomena. Students conduct group exercises as well as draw group conclusions with the teacher serving as a guide and resource. (Another way to think of PBL is like a scientific puzzle: Each concept and phenomenon are pieces that ultimately fit together and develop a picture, which portrays the real situation.)
In offering 35 attention-grabbing experiences (such as a water rocket, fire syringe, a mirage, and energy balls) in Using Physical Science Gadgets and Gizmos, students will be able to:
- Think about problems from different angles and attempt different strategies;
- Demonstrate process skills, working logically and consistently;
- Collaborate with other students to solve problems;
- Use the language of physical science (and science in general);
- Reflect on the thinking process that helped them to acquire new knowledge and skills in physical science; and (maybe most importantly!)
- View physical science as interesting and fun.
In Using Physics Gadgets and Gizmos, the authors acknowledge that in science, there are many phenomena that are difficult at first to understand. The majority of physics books start with theory and then outline demonstrations and applications to follow. The reverse is true in this book. Rather than simple fact memorization, students will be doing real science using any number of the 54 experiments outlined in these books, which take them through pressure and force, laws of thermodynamics, energy, visible light and colors, resonance, buoyancy, two-dimension motion, angular momentum, magnetism, and electromagnetic induction.
The PBL approach to physics allows students to engage in collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, which support the goals of the Next Generation Science Standards. At the end of each chapter the authors provide a list of relevant standards from the NGSS to reinforce their focus on core ideas and practices of science vs. just the scientific facts.
If you’re looking to help your students grasp the “big picture” around physical science and/or physics, and you’ve already experimented with inquiry-, problem- or project-based learning, then the PBL approach to teaching and learning may be a natural next step for you.
Albert Einstein said it best: “The most beautiful thing that we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
These books are also available as e-books: Using Physical Science Gadgets and Gizmos (Grades 6-8) and Using Physics Gadgets and Gizmos (Grades 9-12).