Professors from WWU, MU, Lincoln Encourage Study of Physics in Ninth Grade

William Woods University, the University of Missouri and
Lincoln University are working in partnership with several K-12 school
districts to improve high school science instruction. This is year two of a
four-year project.

 In an effort to better
prepare Missouri high school students for science Dennis Nickelsonand engineering courses in
college, William Woods University mathematics and physics professor Dennis
Nickelson, along with physics professors from MU and Lincoln, are assisting in
a movement that will encourage students to take physics courses in the ninth
grade.

The physics effort is part of a national movement called Physics First; MU’s
project is called the Academy for Teachers using Inquiry and Modeling
Experiences (A TIME for Physics First).

 
A TIME for Physics First is a project to implement year-long
physics courses in ninth grade instead of 11th grade, reversing the traditional
biology-chemistry-physics order suggested in 1892 by a committee appointed to
standardize high school curricula by the National Education Association.

“Our knowledge of science has changed dramatically during the past century,”
said Meera Chandrasekhar, program director and Curators’ Teaching Professor of
Physics and Astronomy in MU’s College of Arts and Science.

 
“Because biology courses now include elements of physics and
chemistry, it’s more practical to teach physics first so students are better
prepared to handle the material,” she said.

The program trains ninth grade science teachers to teach conceptual physics as
a way to significantly increase student achievement in science coursework.
Professors from the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy will share their
expertise in physics instruction with 70 Missouri high school science teachers.                                                           
“Students are often shocked at the faster pace and increased demands they
experience in college-level physics courses; many struggle to keep up and
become discouraged from continuing with science and engineering majors,” Chandrasekhar
said.

 
“Arming high school students with a solid background in
physics will enable them to succeed once they graduate to higher level classes
and will produce more qualified science and engineering workers.”

The 70 high school teachers participating in the month-long program come from
39 partner school districts in Missouri. They will attend a three-year series
of summer academies, where they will engage in research-based professional
development that includes comprehensive physics content, pedagogy, research and
evaluation.

 
They also will gain leadership expertise to reform science
education at the secondary level. Coaches and mentors will support the teachers
throughout the year.

Last summer, 35 science teachers began the series; an additional 35 teachers
will begin this month.  This year, the science teachers will study full
time at MU from June 6 to July 1. The science teachers will be accompanied by
their math teacher colleagues for the week of June 13-17 and by their
administrators June 16-17.

A TIME for Physics First is funded by a five-year National Science Foundation
Math-Science Partnership Institutes grant that began in September 2009.

For more information, visit http://www.physicsfirstmo.org/. For a list of the 39
partner districts, visit http://www.physicsfirstmo.org/about/partners.php.