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46th UBC Physics Olympics – Great Success

Posted: March 10th, 2024, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Every year, early March I have an opportunity to write about the the event that is very near and dear to my heart – the UBC Physics Olympics . This allows me to share how much pride I feel for BC physics teachers who inspire their teams to participate in the event and who spend the entire Saturday and many days prior to that to help students do science and experience what science is all about. You can read about the event on the UBC Physics Olympics web site mentioned above.

Here I would like to reflect on the experience of this year’s event. Just to describe the scope of the event – we had 76 teams, 927 students participated in the event, a number of schools had 2 teams of 15 or more students, 100+ teachers, coaches, parents and future physics teachers, more than 80 volunteers from the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Curriculum and Pedagogy, as well as many spectators. We had so many people that we had to have three large auditoriums at the end of the day to hold the final award ceremony.  However, the event is not just about numbers. The most amazing thing about it is that the event is a hands-on event and not a written theoretical competition. All the students participated in the hands-on labs, solved Fermi Questions, did Quizzics – answered conceptual physics questions and did two pre-build challenges. It was unbelievable to see the excitement of the students when they showed their contraptions and cheered each other during the events. It was a truly team science event that the students will remember forever.

However, for me, there is something else that I feel very proud of. Many of the teachers who brought their teams to the event (including Mr. Pyo – see the picture below), are my former students. This is something very special for me. To know that I helped to educate physics teachers who want to inspire their students and bring them to the Physics Olympics is extra special for me. It makes all my work worth it. I am so glad to see how our collaborative province-wide Physics Olympics event inspires the next generation of students. I hope Physics Olympics goes on for decades! Congratulations to all and don’t forget to check the UBC Physics Olympics web site.

46 UBC Physics Olympics Overall Winner – Port Moody Secondary School Team and their teachers Mrs. Hester Greenwood and Mr. Jin Pyo (both are UBC grads).

3C in the Age of AI: The Challenge of Creativity & Cheating

Posted: January 20th, 2024, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

There are many burning topics in the field of STEM education, but in my opinion, none of them is as controversial and unpredictably interesting as AI and its role in student learning. This is especially relevant to STEM education. Of course, we (educators) have been using AI for years even if few of us realized that we did. For example, the beginnings of AI could be seen in STEM homework systems, such as WebAssign or Mastering Physics, when the students were asked to solve problems online and the system attempted to scaffold them. Then Khan Academy and other more advanced STEM learning systems started considering AI’s applications for their platforms. However, what we often neglect to think about is how AI will inevitably change how our students learn outside of the classroom and how we engage them during our lessons. This is what I keep thinking about while teaching future STEM teachers, doing my research or preparing for my classes with K-12 students or university faculty from around the world.

I would like to outline here three examples, where I think AI will change how we teach STEM. These examples focus on helping STEM teachers reach outside of their comfort zone and expand their knowledge into other STEM fields.

  1. Identifying and connecting BIG IDEAS in STEM: While many of us teach STEM, most of us are mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, computer science, or geology teachers, as opposed to STEM teachers. As a result, while we might have strong ideas in one area, we might not feel as comfortable across other STEM fields. As a result, teaching BIG IDEAS across STEM might be very challenging (this is what BC Curriculum prescribes us to do). I think this is very AI might help educators. For example, I can ask ChatGPT to help me identify big discoveries in life sciences in 19th century:

My prompt: Big discoveries in life sciences in 19th century

ChatGPT

The 19th century was a pivotal era for discoveries in the life sciences, marked by significant advancements and groundbreaking work that laid the foundation for modern biology and medicine. Some of the most notable discoveries and developments include:

  1. Cell Theory (1839): Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann proposed the cell theory, stating that all living organisms are composed of cells and that the cell is the basic unit of life. This theory revolutionized biological sciences and is a fundamental concept in biology.
  2. Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (1859): Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace independently formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin’s publication of “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 provided a unifying theory of life sciences, explaining how diverse species evolved over time from common ancestors.
  3. Discovery of Microorganisms (19th Century): Throughout the 19th century, advances in microscopy led to the discovery and study of microorganisms. Scientists like Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch made significant contributions, including the development of germ theory which demonstrated that many diseases are caused by microorganisms.
  4. Mendelian Genetics (1865): Gregor Mendel, through his work on pea plants, discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance, laying the groundwork for the field of genetics. His findings on dominant and recessive traits were initially overlooked but later recognized as the basis of genetic inheritance.
  5. Antisepsis in Surgery (1867): Joseph Lister pioneered the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic, drastically reducing surgical infections and making surgery safer for patients. This practice was one of the early steps towards modern antiseptic and aseptic techniques in medicine.
  6. Vaccination Advances (1796-19th Century): Although Edward Jenner’s development of the smallpox vaccine occurred at the end of the 18th century (1796), the 19th century saw significant advancements and wider adoption of vaccination as a method to prevent infectious diseases.
  7. X-rays (1895): Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays, a form of electromagnetic radiation, which had a profound impact on medical diagnosis and treatment, particularly in imaging techniques.
  8. Discovery of Hormones (Late 19th Century): The concept and discovery of hormones began in the late 19th century, laying the foundation for the field of endocrinology. The isolation of secretin in 1902 by William Bayliss and Ernest Starling marked a significant milestone, but the groundwork was laid in the 19th century.

These discoveries, among others, fundamentally changed our understanding of life, health, and disease, and set the stage for further advancements in the 20th century and beyond.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As a STEM teacher, I can build on this starting point and use ChatGPT as a collaborator in my lesson planning when my knowledge of the subject might be limited. Of course, I cannot trust ChatGPT and I have to check what it gives me, but this is a great starting point. I can also ask ChatGPT directly about the connections of different STEM fields. This is my second example.

2. Lesson planning with ChatGPT – Identifying connections across STEM fields:

My prompt: Examples of Connections between mathematics biology and physics

ChatGPT

The connections between mathematics, biology, and physics are profound and varied, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of modern science. Here are some notable examples illustrating these connections:

  1. Population Dynamics and Ecology (Mathematics and Biology): Mathematical models, especially differential equations, are extensively used to understand population dynamics in ecology. The Lotka-Volterra equations, for example, model the interactions between predator and prey populations, helping ecologists understand complex biological interactions.
  2. Biophysics and Molecular Dynamics (Physics and Biology): Biophysics applies the principles of physics to study biological systems. This includes understanding the physical properties of molecules like DNA and proteins, and how physical forces impact biological processes at the molecular level.
  3. Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (Physics and Biology): Statistical mechanics and thermodynamics are crucial in understanding biological processes such as protein folding, enzyme activity, and cellular metabolism. These physics concepts help explain how biological systems maintain order and function under various conditions.
  4. Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (Mathematics and Biology): The analysis of biological data often requires sophisticated mathematical algorithms. Bioinformatics, for instance, involves the use of mathematics and computer science to analyze and interpret biological data, like genetic sequences.
  5. Neuroscience and Neural Networks (Mathematics, Biology, and Physics): The study of the brain and nervous system is inherently interdisciplinary. Mathematical models and physical principles are used to understand neural network behavior, synaptic transmission, and brain function.
  6. Epidemiology and Disease Modeling (Mathematics and Biology): Mathematical modeling is essential in epidemiology for predicting the spread of diseases, understanding the dynamics of epidemics, and informing public health strategies.
  7. Quantum Biology (Physics and Biology): An emerging field, quantum biology investigates the possible role of quantum phenomena (like quantum coherence and tunneling) in biological processes, such as photosynthesis, enzyme action, and even animal navigation.
  8. Mathematical Physiology (Mathematics and Biology): This field applies mathematical techniques to understand physiological processes. For example, the Hodgkin-Huxley model uses differential equations to describe how action potentials in neurons are initiated and propagated.
  9. Fluid Dynamics in Biology (Physics and Biology): The principles of fluid dynamics are applied in understanding blood flow in the circulatory system, air flow in respiratory systems, and even in the movement of microorganisms.

These examples illustrate how mathematics and physics not only provide tools and frameworks for understanding biological phenomena but also deepen our fundamental understanding of life at various scales, from molecular to ecological.

3. AI use in Project-Based Instruction

As a teacher, I can consider which one of these examples might be of interest to my students and which one I might need to expand on. Finally, Chat GPT might help my students and myself when working on long-term projects.

Prompt: AI use in project-based instruction

ChatGPT

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to significantly enhance project-based instruction in educational settings. Here are some ways AI can be integrated into project-based learning:

  1. Personalized Learning Paths: AI can analyze individual student performance and learning styles to suggest personalized project topics or components. This tailoring ensures that projects are challenging yet achievable for each student, enhancing engagement and learning outcomes.
  2. Resource Recommendation: AI systems can recommend resources such as articles, videos, datasets, and tools based on the specific needs of a project. This helps students in finding the most relevant and credible information, streamlining their research process.
  3. Collaboration Facilitation: AI can facilitate collaboration among students, especially in remote or hybrid learning environments. It can suggest grouping based on skills and learning styles, and provide platforms for effective communication and joint work.
  4. Project Management Tools: AI-powered project management tools can help students plan, execute, and track their projects more effectively. These tools can assist in setting deadlines, reminding tasks, and allocating resources efficiently.
  5. Feedback and Assessment: AI can provide real-time feedback on students’ projects by analyzing their progress and suggesting improvements. This can be particularly useful in stages like drafting, designing, or testing where immediate feedback can greatly enhance learning.
  6. Enhancing Creativity: AI tools can stimulate creativity by suggesting novel approaches, visual aids, or design elements. For instance, AI algorithms can generate creative problem-solving methods or design inspirations that students might not have considered.
  7. Data Analysis and Interpretation: In projects involving data, AI can aid in the analysis and interpretation of large datasets. This allows students to engage with complex data analytics, which is invaluable in many scientific and social studies projects.
  8. Simulation and Modeling: AI can be used to create simulations and models that are useful for understanding complex systems or phenomena, which can be a part of a student’s project. This is particularly beneficial in fields like environmental science, physics, or economics.
  9. Language Translation and Support: For multilingual classrooms or international projects, AI-powered translation tools can assist in overcoming language barriers, allowing for broader collaboration and resource access.
  10. Ethical and Critical Thinking: Integrating AI into projects can also provide opportunities for students to engage with questions of ethics, bias, and societal impact, fostering critical thinking skills.

By leveraging AI in these ways, educators can enhance the effectiveness, accessibility, and engagement of project-based instruction. It’s important to ensure that the integration of AI supports educational goals and enhances the learning experience without replacing the essential human elements of teaching and mentorship.

Challenge of AI: Can we trust it and should we? – Beyond cheating.

While many educators focus on student cheating with AI, I am more concerned with students trusting it, without being able to critically evaluate the trustworthiness of AI’s answers. At the same time, AI can also help develop critical thinking skills if students are asked to evaluate ChatGPT’s response critically and identify when it is hallucinating. This is especially important today when  many students fail to realize that one cannot trust AI, but has to be vigilant when relying on the information it supplies. There are many interesting articles on the topic: https://zapier.com/blog/ai-hallucinations/ .

In summary, I think AI has a lot of potential, it can open many opportunities for creative STEM educators and creative students. However, they are also possibilities that if STEM educators create assignments that can be done with ChatGPT alone, without any higher order thinking requirements, then cheating will be inevitable. For example, finding information about people or writing a “standard essay” about basic concepts can be done with ChatGPT alone. This makes teaching more challenging, as we have to think what are the skills that we want the students to acquire that will be valuable for the, in the future? So while ChatGPT in particular and AI in general made our lives more interesting, it also added a lot of challenges to educators that we all have to think how to address.

For more information:

Emsley, R. (2023). ChatGPT: these are not hallucinations – they’re fabrications and falsifications. Schizophrenia, 9(1), 52. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41537-023-00379-4 

Cotton, D. R. E., Cotton, P. A., & Shipway, J. R. (2023). Chatting and cheating: Ensuring academic integrity in the era of ChatGPT. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2023.2190148

Cardona, M. A., Rodríguez, R. J., & Ishmael, K. (2023). Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations. W. US Department of Education, DC.

Barnett, T. R. (2023). The Official ChatGPT Guide for Teachers: A Must-Read Guide to Enhancing Classroom Learning and Addressing Ethical Concerns.

New Academic Year: Old challenges and new possibilities

Posted: August 5th, 2023, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

As I am getting ready to start a new academic year, I keep thinking about what I will carry on from the past and what I will try to do differently this year. I also keep thinking about what I learned this year and what I should change in my own teaching. In addition, I have been teaching a special summer course for graduate students from Hangzhou Normal University and this experience provided me with some new ideas as well.

I have been teaching at UBC Faculty of Education for more than a decade now. I have taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses and have developed many of them “from scratch”. At the same time, I have seen my students grow into experienced science and mathematics teachers who inspire their students both in British Columbia and around the world. So what can I do to make them succeed and support them beyond their studies at UBC?

So the biggest thing I will try to work on this year is to inspire my students to incorporate educational technologies (e.g., AI, STEM apps, etc.) in their teaching that students have already access to – the applications that students can easily install on their smartphones. In the last few years, I have collaborated on a number of projects where we explored the potential of smartphones in STEM education. I think I am ready to help my students – future teachers to unleash this potential. I hope, after finishing my courses, my students will be able to incorporate smartphones in a new way in their own teaching. I hope that as a result, our future STEM teachers will be able to create more engaging and meaningful lessons for their students. I also hope that I will be able to learn a lot from my students. I am very excited about it and I am looking forward to a new academic year!


Milner-Bolotin, M., & Milner, V. (2023, July 16-21). Smartphones: Bridging mathematics and science with novel technology Psychology in Mathematics Education 46 International Conference, Haifa, Israel. https://pme46.edu.haifa.ac.il/

Milner-Bolotin, M., & Milner, V. (2023). Breaking the Vicious Circle of Secondary Science Education with Twenty-First-Century Technology: Smartphone Physics Labs. In G. P. Thomas & H. J. Boon (Eds.), Challenges in Science Education: Global Perspectives for the Future (pp. 177-199). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-18092-7_9

Milner-Bolotin, M., & Milner, V. (2023, February 2nd). Breaking the vicious circle of physics disengagement: From undergraduate physics teaching to teacher education [Online webinar]. 81st International Scientific Conference of the University of Latvia 2023: Physics. Education, Practice. Seminar for University Physics Education Practitioners, Riga, Latvia.

Psychology in Math Education Conference 2023

Posted: July 23rd, 2023, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

It was a great opportunity to attend the 46 Psychology in Mathematics Education International Conference in Haifa, Israel. The participants from more than 50 countries presented their work on teaching and learning mathematics, science and other related fields. One of the major themes of the conference was the use of technology in mathematics education.

We presented in a special session dedicated to STEM education and the use of technology in STEM teaching:

Milner-Bolotin, M., & Milner, V. (2023, July 16-21, 2023). Smartphones: Bridging mathematics and science with novel technology Psychology in Mathematics Education 46 International Conference, Haifa, Israel. https://pme46.edu.haifa.ac.il/

Engaging students in STEM

Posted: June 1st, 2023, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

As the school year is coming to an end, it is a great opportunity to reflect on the highlights of this year for me. I would like to mention 7 special opportunities I had this year that made it all worth it for me:

  1. My EDCP 357 Physics Methods Course – was a wonderful opportunity to inspire and be inspired by new physics teachers. We had an exceptionally strong group of physics teachers and I am enormously grateful for that. You can see t heir projects and contributions to our video collections here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHKp2Hd2k_dLjODXydn2-OA
  2. EDCP 544 Graduate Course in the MED in Science Education Program: The graduate students in our Master’s Program, who are practicing STEM teachers, inspired me to think of innovative use of technology in STEM education. This was a fantastic group of teachers who also shared with me their STEM education projects. For example, this one was related to the use of Phyphox in physics teaching: https://phyphoxpd.weebly.com/ and there were many other great projects.
  3. Students and teachers who participated in the 42nd UBC Physics Olympics made me so happy and proud of their work. This was a very meaningful activity and I am grateful to everybody who helped to make it happen: https://blogs.ubc.ca/mmilner/2023/03/07/45-ubc-physics-olympics/
  4. Having an opportunity to mentor graduate students who do research in STEM education. I am grateful to all of you for giving me a chance to learn with you.
  5. Mentoring students at the University Transition School. This is a group of young, talented and curious students. Engaging with them in STEM was a challenge and an opportunity for me.
  6. Participation in the STEM 2022 Conference at the University of Sydney together with my graduate students was a great opportunity to learn from colleagues from around the world. I am grateful for that.
  7. Visiting many BC schools with STEM outreach activities was definitely a highlight. Volunteering for the Scientists and Innovators in the Schools organization (SIS) has brought us lots of joy in the last 15 years! This organization makes a huge difference for thousands of students all across BC. I especially would like to thank Mr. Bill Deagle from Carihi Secondary School in Campbell River and Mrs. Angie McTague from LV Rogers Secondary School in Nelson BC for inviting us. This was a collaboration with my husband, Dr. Valery Milner (whose experiment on breaking a wine glass with sound you can see below). We both enjoyed it immensely and would like to thank students and teachers for welcoming us. All these trips would have never happened if not for Christen Olsen from SIS and her team. The SIS is hosted by Science World and what they do to support STEM outreach is very inspiring.
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I am grateful for all these opportunities and I would like to wish you all a great summer.

45 UBC Physics Olympics in Numbers

Posted: March 7th, 2023, by Marina Milner-Bolotin
Carihi Secondary School and their teacher Mr. Bill Deagle (the team travelled from Campbell River, BC)

Carihi Secondary School and their teacher Mr. Bill Deagle (the team travelled from Campbell River, BC)

The Overall Winner – Eric Hamber Secondary School team and their teacher Mr. Eric Lam, who is also a UBC graduate!

Semiahmoo Secondary School and their teacher Mr. Louay El Halabi. This year they were in the 3rd place!

Dear physics enthusiasts and friends:

This Saturday, more than 700 secondary students from all over BC travelled to UBC to participate in the 45th Annual UBC Physics Olympics: https://physoly.phas.ubc.ca/ . It was our first face-to-face post-pandemic event and I am so glad to report that it went exceptionally well. The event is a long time (almost half a century) collaboration between the Departments of Curriculum and Pedagogy and Physics and Astronomy. It is the largest hands-on on-campus science event in Canada and probably one of the largest in North America. Vancouver CTV News featured the following report about it: https://vancouver.citynews.ca/2023/03/04/ubc-physics-olympics/

I also would like to share with your that this year the overall Champion is Eric Hamber Secondary School team. Their teacher – Mr. Mark Lam – is our own BED graduate. And most of his team are Grade 10 and 11 students! I am so proud of him and his team.

Here are a few numbers about the event:

  1. Students: 718
  2. The distance the farthest team (LV Rodgers Secondary School from Nelson, BC) travelled to get to UBC: 665 km
  3. Number of medals distributed at the event: 90
  4. Number of volunteers: More than 70
  5. Number of participating teams: 63
  6. Number of teachers: 61 (we had some schools with two teams)
  7. Number of the annual UBC Physics Olympics: 45th
  8. Number of teachers who attended our special Pro-D event: Physics teaching ideas exchange: 32
  9. Number of teachers who were own BED students and who are currently our own students in our MED in Science Education cohort: 18
  10. Number of tours at TRIUMF facility: 12
  11. Number of special plaques for the winners: 6
  12. Number of different events: 6 (2 labs, Quizzics, Fermi Question challenge, and 2 Pre-Builds)
  13. Number of overall trophies – 1

We were interviewed by the CTV news. The interview link: https://vancouver.citynews.ca/2023/03/04/ubc-physics-olympics/

We received many-many thank you notes from the teachers. I am so glad to see that we have strong connections with the community and we are contributing to science education in our province not only through teacher education, but also through successful and inspirational outreach events:

“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for a fantastic event. My students were super touched by your acknowledgments and were completely inspired by their fellow students and the events. We look forward to coming next year.

Kind Regards,

Angie McTague

LVR Physics teacher

Nelson, BC”

The evolution of smartphones in my Physics Classroom: Beyond engagement

Posted: November 30th, 2022, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

As the winter 2022-2023 term is coming to an end, it gives me an opportunity to think about how we have been using smartphones in my physics classrooms in the last few years. While the original goal was to engage students, especially when we had to teach fully online, as our experience grew, we were able to uncover much deeper advantages of using this ubiquitous technology while helping students learn physics in or outside of our classrooms. Now it is not only about the engagement, it is about a very different way of learning physics and experiencing science in general. I also have to acknowledge how lucky I am to be able to collaborate with many of my colleagues and friends in this endeavour. So this has been a joint effort with my physics colleagues, including my husband, Prof. Valery Milner, who pioneered the use of smartphones in the UBC Physics Olympics, many amazing physics teachers, who have provided feedback and great ideas, as well as my physics teacher-candidates, who have been using smartphones in their physics methods course for the last three years and who have been mentoring secondary students who have participated in physics projects that used smartphones as scientific tools in very creative ways.

So, we have been using smartphones in three different ways:

a) As a powerful data collection tools – using Phyphox as the main source of data collection (see below). We also used Physics Toolbox, etc.

b) As a powerful data collection tool using its video features – the students recorded videos of different scientific experiments and then analyzed them using Video Analysis tools, such as Vernier Logger Pro Video Analysis or Tracker video analysis. This was especially helpful while learning about kinematics, collisions, etc.

c) As a tool for doing science simulations and visualizations using tools, such as PhET, etc.

From my own experience, smartphones opened unique opportunities to do science and to experience the excitement of figuring things out be it in a physics classrooms, or outside of it. However, they also required a lot of learning from our side. Smartphones helped us facilitate a meaningful intellectual engagement that reflects how science is done. For example, this term, our secondary students have conducted projects using a Phyphox app to explore the physics of music. The students produced sounds using various musical instruments and then used various acoustic components of Phyphox to analyze them. The students also investigated how sound can be generated and absorbed.  Some of the secondary students delved into Fourier Analysis, they experienced the meaning of tones, overtones, basic frequency, etc. They investigated how different sounds are produced and how we represent the sound mathematically and graphically. The students also learned to do error analysis and realized how important it is to ask science questions that can be answered. While they were working on these projects, our future physics teachers were mentoring them and also learned a great deal about doing science as teachers.

In the different area, we are working on preparing for the next UBC Physics Olympics and considering how smartphones can be used for Pre-Builts (the setups our students prepare at home). This was something that allowed all students in British Columbia, independently of the availability of equipment in their physics labs at their schools to participate.

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In summary, I see lots of opportunities in using Smartphones in physics education. I hope their use will grow and the next generation of physics teachers will be able to take full advantage of this ubiquitous technology.

To read more about it, please visit:

  1. https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/ICPE/article/view/16420 
  2. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/2297/1/012026/meta 
  3. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/1929/1/012067/meta

Thoughts on the Equinox and Learning

Posted: September 21st, 2022, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Tomorrow will be official the first day of fall. Thursday, September 22nd, 2022 is the autumn equinox, the day when the length of day equals the length of night. Of course, it is a spring equinox in the southern hemisphere, but for us, it is the beginning of fall. As a science teacher, I see lots of opportunities to discuss it with my students. For example, why does the equinox happen? How fast will the length of the day change during different times throughout the year? For example, now the rate of change is the fastest. Why does it happen? What happens to the world-nature around us during the fall and why? How are the astronomical phenomena, such as equinoxes related to the calendar and how we measure time and seasons?

While doing a quick search, I found a few interesting facts about the equinox we can use to draw students’ attention and interest in science and I think they can and should be used in science classes:

  • Equinox is an instantaneous phenomenon. …
  • Day and Night are not precisely 12 hours each. …
  • Equinox does not occur on a fixed day. …
  • Equinoxes signal the start of Northern Lights. …
  • Harvest Moon in the Autumnal Equinox. …
  • Autumn Equinox once marked the start of the new year.

A beautiful view of the harbor in Tofino, BC.

I wish you all a happy and productive fall.

New Academic Year – Have a Great Ride

Posted: September 4th, 2022, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Merritt Pro Rodeo 2022

This year, for the first time in my life I had an opportunity to visit a rodeo. Even though my Ph.D. is from the University of TX, I never had a chance to see a real rodeo there. I also have never visited the famous Calgary Stampede or similar events. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be something interesting for me. I cannot even express how wrong I was. First of all, this rodeo was very special. For the last two years, the rodeo in Merritt was cancelled and this year, it started happening again. The joy of people who were there was very palpable. However, what surprised me the most is how much I could relate to it and not only because all the physics that goes into the horse riding or the roping events. Even though I have never lived on a farm or have learned to ride a horse, the skills the cowboys and cowgirls have been showing were astonishing. Yet, what was the most important for me, is how they didn’t give up even when something didn’t work for them. Even when the things didn’t work how they were supposed to work, the cowboys stood up and didn’t show how upset they were or when possible tried again. One could see how much work was put into acquiring and honing these skills and how much perseverance these athletes have. This hard work and dedicated resonated with me very much.

This is how I hope my students and I will be this year. I realize that teaching and learning physics are skills that takes a long time to develop and to hone. These are also perishable skills. You cannot acquire them and keep learning or practising. As much as we all try and prepare, some things do not work the way we wish. And I hope, like these cowboys and cowgirls, we will not give up and keep trying. As long as we all keep doing what we love doing and help each other, we will succeed and if not from the first time, then from the second, or third one. This is one of the key lessons for me this year.  Never give up and keep trying.

Like the visitors and the participants of the 2022 Pro Rodeo in Merritt, I am super excited to begin this new academic year and I hope we all will have a great ride. And if things do not work, we will keep trying. Happy New Academic Year to all the students, teachers and their families! Let us have fun with physics at school and at home. Learning should never stop!

 

Public Voting: International LUMA StarT Competition

Posted: May 5th, 2022, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

This year I was invited to be one of the judges of the International LUMA StarT competition. This is a large international competition organized by my colleagues at the University of Helsinki in Finland. StarT competition invites educators and students from all around the world to present and share exciting ideas about teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – STEM. You can read more about StarT here:

StarT – together for a good future

The main goal of StarT is to implement to schools a new interdisciplinary, collaborative StarT way of working and thinking, based on research and the practices emphasized in the newest core curriculum of Finland. StarT is an important part of the activities of LUMA Centre Finland, which is a network of Finnish universities working on to ensure the high quality of science, technology and mathematics teaching in Finland.

I enjoyed exploring the submissions and learning from them. The submissions came from so many different countries – from many continents and many-many countries. The submissions made me feel inspired and hopeful for the future. We have a lot to learn from each other and a lot to collaborate on. I hope the competitions like this one will help bring people together and will encourage more students to engage with STEM.

And since it is an international event, anybody who is interested can vote as well:

https://start.luma.fi/en/2022/05/02/international-public-voting-in-may-vote-for-your-favourites/

Explore and pick your favourite project.

 

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