Sunday, March 30, 2014

Adopt-a-Physicist: Spring 2014

I just received the following information from Kendra Redmond of the Education Division of the American Institute of Physics. I like to forward these invitations because I know how valuable these sorts of connections can be. Many years ago, I participated as a volunteer scientist in an adopt-a-scientist program called Science-by-Mail.

Register now for the spring session of Adopt-a-Physicist!

If your students ever ask...
  • What do physicists do?
  • What does this have to do with the "real world"?
  • Has anything new been discovered in physics since Einstein?
Then consider participating in Adopt-a-Physicist, a free program for high school physics classes, hosted by the physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma.

Adopt-a-Physicist connects high school physics students to real physics graduates who are eager to share their stories. Working in areas ranging from particle physics research to freelance writing, the participating physicists embody a huge range of careers, backgrounds, interests, and educational levels. Adopt-a-Physicist connects classes with the physicists of their choice through online discussion forums that are active for a set three-week period. Each physicist can only be "adopted" by up to three classes, making lively, in-depth discussions possible. Click here to learn more. For more details on the program and ideas for incorporating it into your physics class, browse the resources for teachers.

Spring 2014 Schedule
  • Teacher Registration: Now - April 3 (or until full)
  • Teachers adopt physicists: April 15 - April 18
  • Discussion forums open: April 22 - May 9
Visit Adopt-a-Physicist for more information, or send us an email at

Photo credit: Daniel X. O'Neil, via Flickr.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The States of Matter

My son recently came home with a corrected test which covered three states of matter: solid, liquid, gas. His frustration with the test was evident, as you can see in this photo.

The essay portion of the test asked, "Describe how you use the three states of matter in your life every day." He re-wrote the question so that it read, "Describe how you use three of the states of matter in your life every day." To his teacher's credit, she gave him full points for his answer.

It baffles me that we still teach that there are only three states of matter, when clearly there are more. However, this is not a new problem. Years ago, my husband got into trouble with his high school chemistry teacher for arguing (correctly) that plasma - much of the sun is in this state - is a fourth state of matter. Bose-Einstein condensate, a fifth state of matter, was first created in 1995, and a sixth, fermionic condensates, was produced for the first time in 2003.

Less than a month after this test was returned, a possible new state of matter was described in chicken eyes: disordered hyperuniformity. I thought back to my son's answer(s) for question 2 on his recent test: How many forms of matter exist on Earth? He circled three, the expected answer, but then added his own response: "no one knows."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Craters of the Moon

My daughter came home from preschool with this art project. To make the moon, the kids used paper towels cut into circles and hand-painted them gray.

Macaroni pieces were placed underneath the paper towels to create craters and give the moon a rough textured surface. How clever!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Patterns Everywhere!

My daughter is in preschool now and her class is studying patterns. Her homework this week is to draw an A-B-A-B pattern. As I helped her out of the bath, I thought of a fun way to teach it to her.

(She wasn't as impressed as I was!)

Do you have a creative way to teach kids about patterns? Share it in the comments!