“Boring physics in the classroom has amazing applications out there,” newly inspired teacher Jennifer Gower says.
The Waitaki Girls’ High School physics curriculum is gaining momentum after Mrs Gower attended the New Zealand Institute of Physics (NZIP) and Physikos 2021 conference, last month.
The conference was held in Wellington in the first week of the school holidays. It offered a selection of lectures, workshops and field trips, with about 200 physicists and physics teachers attending from around the country , she said.
Mrs Gower has been teaching at Waitaki Girls’ for three years, but this year was her first back teaching physics in a long time.
She made her own presentation at the conference, and also attended for professional development.
Her presentation showed a model which offered a way to help students with their understanding of relative velocity.
“If you’re swimming across the river, and then the river flows, where are you going to end up? And I presented this to some teachers, and I got them to do what I did with my class, basically.”
The feedback was positive and teachers were keen to use it in their classrooms, Mrs Gower said.
“I want to teach the students a way that would make it real, sort of hands-on, like a model, so they could go makes sense’.”
Other presentations included a teacher who demonstrated force, by lifting a car using planks of wood and his own body weight.
“There were lots of talks that were given, with some interesting ways of teaching students . . . rather than sitting in a classroom with a ruler and little maths pieces.”
One field trip was to a company that had designed a machine to separate bovine sperm, using the difference in mass between the male and female. This had the potential to offer farmers the option to only breed female calves.
“Then Covid hit, and they quickly used their technology for checking for anti-bodies for Covid. So that was amazing to see the physics research in New Zealand is being used for agriculture and Covid research. So it was quite inspiring,” Mrs Gower said.
“So, you know, the boring physics in the classroom has amazing applications out there, which I think some students don’t know about, so I’m going to bring that back to the classroom, definitely.”
Mrs Gower attended the conference after being awarded a grant from the school PPTA.