Saturday, 23 June 2012

IoP Stimulating Physics South West Conference

At the moment I don't have any lessons on Fridays, so my request to go to the south west physics teacher conference was readily accepted by management. The conference is held in Exeter, and this was the third one.

Finding St Luke's Campus wasn't hard, I just drove straight into Exeter from junction 29 of the M5. I did miss the long stay car park on the right though. The drive only took me just over an hour despite the bad weather.

On registering I got the current pack from the science learning centres. This is always expected and gives a list of the cpd programme for the Autumn term and the advertising literature from @Bristol as well as the free pen and note pad.

The leaflet that was of most interest to me was for the festival of contemporary science. It runs on Saturday 7th July and is a series of workshops and lectures given by researchers. It looks like a fantastic day.

The introductory lecture was given by Dr Alastair Hibbins. He is the admissions tutor for Exeter University Physics Department and told us that undergraduates at Exeter can expect to do original research and should look to the research groups at the university to find out if the would enjoy it. He talked about the his research into warping electromagnetic space. I always enjoy finding out about physics at the cutting edge.

My next session was supposed to be on the topic of materials, but the session leader was delayed in traffic. So Iain Davidson from data harvest stepped in. I have never used their data logging equipment and was pleasantly surprised. What I really enjoyed was the passion of Iain for how data logging can improve the experience and understanding of students. It was infectious.

At lunch I was able to meet up with an ex colleague. The only other person I recognised as coming from a Bristol School.

After lunch I went to the IoP workshop "make and take cloud chamber". The stimulating physics network run this workshop on regular occasions and I would recommend anyone with a passing interest in particle physics and radioactivity to go along to a session. There are instructions on how to make one in May 2012's physics education journal.

The final lecture was of great interest to me. I want to run an astronomy club in school during the winter term and this give me a vast number of activities that I could use, without having to worry about using my own imagination. The lecture was called "hands-on astrophysics".

The suggestions were:
1. Day time star gazing. Print a big image of stars (eg a Hubble deep field image) and use a telescope inside a very large room to look at it. It will be the students the chance to practice using the telescope.
2. Stellarium Software. Another idea that I liked was using stellarium as you can fast forward time and see the night sky. This would be great as you could send students off with an idea of things to look for in the sky that night.
3. Showing the Formation of Galaxies. You can model the formation of the shapes of galaxies by adding fine sand to a bowl of water and stirring the water to create a vortex above the sand. When the water slows the patterns look like the shapes of galaxies.
4. The Colours of Stars. It is possible to use a CD and cereal box to create a homemade diffraction grating and look at the spectra from different bulbs and natural light.
5. Parallaxes. We were shown images of how a star might appear to change position, then how you could use a long piece of string and the type of protractor you would use on a white board to measure the angles involved in the parallax.
6. Modelling Planets. It is a common activity to model the size of plants, it can be done with fruit as an example. However we were also shown modelling of density by filling balloons with things like rice and sand. It can surprise students to see that Jupiter and Saturn can float. It was suggested that a hooller hoop can be used to model the size of the sun.
7. Exoplanets. It is interesting to include extra-solar planets in our models of planets. 750 have been found so far.
8. Top Trumps. A game of top trumps is useful to round of a lesson on planets.
9. Asteroids. It is possible to buy meteorite samples and show they are magnetic.
10. Meteorite Impacts. Using flour and a sprinkle of cocoa powder over the top it is possible to drop marbles and see the size of craters and how material is kicked up from underneath.
11. National Schools Observatory. Images can be found on the national schools observatory website and it is also possible to request for specific images to be taken especially for you.

Anyone based in the south west should strongly consider asking to go to the south west physics teacher conference. Useful information and a great positive atmosphere.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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