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IMGALTTAG Volume VII: Learning Science by Doing Science


The Physics Necessary for Understanding Photosynthesis
Rhonda Graham
Oliver High School

Physics in biology was written to help myself and colleagues attempt to allow students in mainstream biology classes to explore the relationship of light, energy and photosynthesis. After completing this unit students will have a more in-depth understanding of the dual nature of light, and the importance of light energy to kick off the photosynthesis process.

This unit is a blend between inquiry instruction, and traditional teacher led instruction. As this unit came to life, I made a conscious effort to develop lessons that allowed the students to create presentations that demonstrate understanding.  I also wanted the students’ presentations to reflect the quality of work that the group completed as they studied photosynthesis.

An additional object of the project-learning portion of this unit is to present an opportunity for the students to complete research, design a project and create a presentation in a similar manner as to the graduation project. I will be following the rubric that is currently used to score the graduation project.


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The Algebra of Motion
Paul J. Renne
Oliver High School

The purpose of this unit is to give students the experience that algebra can represent the motion of objects. The students will accomplish this by collecting and algebraically analyzing data from actual moving objects. The CBR/CBL motion detector machines make this collection extremely accurate. The students will begin with such data collecting to introduce the physics equations of motion and show how algebra nearly perfectly represents the object’s placement through time.

Soon after students will perform motion experiments modeled after those of Galileo. To make the study more interesting and to introduce the history of the subject the students will learn of Galileo (1564-1642) and his actions, which were considered rebellious toward the church and its Aristotelian views. Mock arguments will be conducted by actors (students) playing his three characters in his Dialogues, Salviati, Sagredo and Simplicio.

The algebraic work of this unit is to create curves of best fit toward data obtained from real moving objects and recorded on graphs and tables. The culminating activity is to create a curve of best fit to a graph and table values of the vertical motion of a bouncing ball. In doing such work the students will discover the acceleration rate of freely falling objects on earth. The students’ rigorous work on the data will give them further practice of algebra and is a perfect review to wrap up the course.


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Thrill Ride:  Expansion on a Theme
Alice Rysdon
McNaugher Education Center

Thrill Ride while a fun, and informative unit, does not seem to have enough repetition of basic ideas and some of the research projects are too long and complicated. I tried to have more introductory activities to introduce Newton's laws of motion, so that students become familiar with them. Then I broke some of the projects into more manageable units.

My students seemed to need more guidance than the book gave. So this unit suggests ways to break up the projects into separate experiments. Students will end up with the same project, but it is broken up into smaller, related projects before the students put it all together.


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Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills for Thrill Ride Events Based Science Unit
Douglas S. Wolfe
Milliones Middle School

This unit contains classroom activities for seven fundamental physics concepts that are prerequisite knowledge for the Events Based Science Module: Thrill Ride. Thrill Ride allows students to explore Newton’s Laws and the Conservation of Energy. Before they can fully understand these concepts, they need to have mastered the concepts of distance, time, mass, speed, acceleration, force, and energy. Additionally they will benefit from being able to diagram forces and their interactions using vectors. For each concept or skill, this unit offers background material to summarize the content knowledge, tips for leading classroom discussion on that topic, practice problem solving exercises for students, in-class demonstrations and lab activities for students to do.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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