Physics Lessons Get Physical

Bernita Patterson is doing sprints in the hallways of Goodwyn Junior High School. The 9th grade science teacher isn't training for the Olympics, she's running straight into a new way to teach physics. Patterson, a teacher at George Washington Carver High School says, "we were actually learning about distance over time, which calculates speed."

Patterson and other ninth grade science teachers are spending this week learning how to use a curriculum called 'active physics.' The idea is to give students a hands-on way to master the concepts of physics. "We all know that we learn by doing; and when they're (students) actually doing something that they enjoy... they're actually having a good time while they learn."

An instructor from Ohio is teaching the teachers how to use active physics, by making them do the lessons the way students will. Some of them say the experiments are exciting. Sharon Sullivan, a teacher at Capitol Heights Junior High says, "yesterday we went outside and used bathroom scales as a means of measuring force to push a car. And then we calculated the weight of that car using all of those factors: force, mass... and acceleration, from calculations. And that's actually showing them in an everyday situation how to do something."

This teaching method that uses the measurement of time and the measurement of distances, is expected to lead to measurable improvements in standardized test scores."

Tina Bowlin, a science coordinator for Montgomery Public Schools says, "research is indicating that hands-on science leads to application, which is problem solving. And these kids should be able to solve problems much better than hopefully the students who do not have access to these materials."

The curriculum was purchased with grant money from the National Science Foundation.