The first step to getting anyone to want to learn something is to capture their curiosity. No one is going to look at a diagram of forces acting on an object and be like “wow, someday I want to be a physicist!” S0, that means it’s our job as educators to capture the attention of our students. To present them with an odd phenomenon and force them to ask why is occurs and how we can explain. But how can we engage our students and do it on a budget?
Well, I think the easiest answer to that is the internet. The wealth of knowledge and resources are profound. For instance the website Teach Engineering is a database of STEM related curricula and activities for grade levels K-12. Due to the vast amount of activities on the website, there’s bound to be ones that fit all different budgets. I found one activity in which students build their own rollercoasters out of pipe insulation. This can be translated to a great demo where a teacher can build a rollercoaster and then send their students off to do just the same. Plus the whole website is based on NGSS standards, perfect!
Another great way to engage students on a budget is with movie clips! Everyone loves movies, and they are notoriously bad with keeping things scientifically accurate. So a great way to engage students is to show them a movie clip and then discuss how the clip doesn’t actually follow scientific laws. Another twist on that is students bring in their own clips from movies to share with the class, and then everyone can discuss whether they think the science is accurate or inaccurate.
Another great way to engage your students is with the help of fellow teachers from across the world. Educational blogs are great places to pick up ideas. Whether you copy the idea exactly or put your own spin on it, there are some great options out there. Here’s one with ten great (and cheap) demos that can jumpstart any unit in your science classroom. My personal favorite is an experiment where a bicycle wheel is strung up to the ceiling by its axle. Then by spinning the wheel, you can cause the axle to start rotating using concepts like torque and momentum.
This next method is more for getting students engaged on a daily basis rather than engaged for the upcoming unit. “Brainbusters” to begin class are a great way for everyone to warm up their science brains and hopefully focus in. There are websites cataloging brainbusters for all subject areas, however, I found one with a ton of physics related ones. It’s categorized by unit and some of the questions had me stopping to think as well, so it’ll be perfect for students in a classroom.
“Two objects are thrown vertically upward, one a short time before the other. Is it possible for them to both reach the same maximum height at the same instant? Explain your answer.”A great brainbuster from: http://cosweb1.fau.edu/~jordanrg/phy2048/brain_busters.htm
Another fun way to get students engaged is with games! Board games specifically. Having students engage with a game is a great way to get them excited while still having them begin to learn at the same time. For instance one game on this website is called Antimatter Matters, Although it’s unlikely that I’ll be going in depth on antimatter in my classroom just exposing students to the concept can peak their curiosity. Plus, by using board games it can almost force students to pay attention as they work together to understand how to play the game and then play it.
Trying to get students to engage in science can seem like a very daunting task. People may tell you that “some kids just don’t like science.” I don’t believe that is true. Everyone can learn to love some aspect of science. Students that say they don’t like science simply haven’t been exposed to the part they like yet. Hopefully the resources I’ve provided in this post will help give you some ideas to reach those students’ hearts and help them learn to love science.