Jesse and I began teaching together in 1999. Like many new teachers, we initially developed our courses from a traditional textbook. After a few years, we became unsatisfied with the order of the concepts delivered in the textbook - investigating motion before learning about what causes motion. Immersing ourselves in an intensive literature search, we reviewed all the available education research in physics, the National Science Standards, and the innovative programs currently available - including Active Physics, Minds on Physics, Physics by Inquiry, Conceptual Physics, and Peer Instruction. We aimed to figure out not only "what to teach" but "how to teach."
While our research resulted in helping our students "discover" the concepts and applying those concepts in driving projects, we still felt that our course lacked an emphasis on energy. Motion graphs and Newton's Laws of Motion, though important in understanding how and why objects move, are not prerequisites for active citizenship. The concept of energy, on the other hand, has become a pillar of contemporary society. We face important questions in regards to energy – Where should we get our energy? How should we use the available energy? How should energy be distributed throughout the world? Each person makes important decisions on transportation, personal comfort and even politics that have impacts on energy. Therefore, shouldn't students spend more time investigating energy in school?
Around 2004, Jesse and I began organizing our physics course around the concept of energy. Lacking textbooks with an appropriate energy focus, Jesse and I developed daily handouts for our students. At first, the handouts supplemented our course's textbook. Over time, the handouts became the course. As new physics teachers came to Boston Latin School, we organized the handouts into a workbook for them to use with their students.
In 2008, our colleague and department head, Alexandra Montes-McNeil, pushed us to seek publishing opportunities for Energizing Physics. One publisher who showed interest, Key Curriculum Press, introduced us to Cary Sneider at Portland State University, who helped us submit a NSF grant proposal to pilot EP with embedded assessments focusing on helping students bridge the gap between high school and college. In the second grant cycle, NSF funded our pilot for the 2011-2012 school year. That year, fifteen teachers used EP in 5 schools - Boston Latin School, Boston, MA; Newton North High School, Newton MA; Wayland High School, Wayland, MA; Malden High School, Malden MA; Westview High School, Beaverton OR; and Gresham High School, Gresham, OR. This pilot year improved the course greatly, adding a reader, fully imbedded learning targets and formative assessment, and better conceptual questions.
Since this pilot year, we pursued publishing with Bedford, Freeman & Worth, including another publisher-run pilot version for the 2013-2014 year. We have recently parted ways and are creating a new open sharing plan using google documents.
Energizing Physics >