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Friends and Family Assignments

Friends and family assignments were first implemented by a graduate teaching assistant, Michele Crowl, to promote informal science teaching and learning experiences. These assignments require students to take what they have begun to learn in Physics 111 and teach others about physical phenomena. Sometimes the students are asked to teach their peers or parents, but they are always encouraged to teach children of the age they would like to teach in the future if they are able to do so. Depending on the type of assignment, students may be asked to interview their friends and family members, conduct experiments or activities with them, and/or explain science concepts to them in easy to understand language. By breaking down science concepts and activities, and by sharing them with friends and family, the students in Physics 111 get the opportunity to solidify knowledge and gain new insights about science and teaching. In this way, friends and family assignments become more than just teaching others; they become a process of self-discovery and learning! Students not only gain knowledge about science, but they also gain confidence in their teaching skills and abilities.

After conducting each friends and family assignment, students in Physics 111 write reflections about their experiences. Reflecting on the friends and family interactions can be beneficial to future teachers because it often helps them conceptualize the process of learning and teaching. Thinking about these strategies will likely enhance their future teaching practices.

Friends and Family Activities

Week Physics Topic Activity Example Student Response
Week 1 Light and Shadow Explorations Use your cardboard to cut out a shape with which to explore shadows with a friend or family member. Post the questions you explore and your findings on the discussion board by midnight Wednesday and submit here as well. This was an interesting experience for me. To be completely honest I wasn’t even thinking about physics, or homework for that matter. I was sitting on the couch with my roommate Chloe and we noticed three shadows coming off the television. That’s when the idea struck me. After much explaining and convincing, Chloe agreed to let loose and play with shadows with me. The first thing we did was decided what shape to make; we felt an owl would be appropriate. Then we determined what question we would explore. We decided: What causes multiple shadows on a single object? We started with one light source shining on our owl; this cast a single shadow, just as we expected. Then we added another light source, which cast another shadow! After this we went back into the living room and I asked Chloe to apply what we just learned to the real life situation. She quickly put it together and said, “There are three lights in the ceiling, causing three shadows off the TV!!” It felt really rewarding to start with a real life question, explore and cumulate an answer!
Week 2 Thermal Phenomena Invite a friend or family member to explore thermal phenomena with you in terms of thinking about how materials differ in the rate at which they transfer heat energy. Post a reflection on BlackBoard in which you describe what happens and reflect on what you learned about learning and teaching through this process. I taught my roommates about thermal phenomena while I was cooking dinner. I told them to touch the wooden handle of our pot, and then to touch the metal of pot itself while it was still cool. Then I asked them which felt cooler them. Of course, they said the metal felt cooler. I explained to them what I learned in class about how each object conducts heat differently. I asked them, once everything was heated up, to touch the wooden handle of the pot, which they did. Then, I asked them to touch the metal, and they wouldn't. They already knew that the metal would be very hot, so they had the knowledge that metal was a good conductor of heat. This meant that the metal would get very hot, very quickly. They were amazed by the fact that metal was in fact the same temperature as the wooden handle while they were both cool, but metal conducted heat from our body and felt cooler though it really wasn't. It was interesting to explain this to them, because they had never thought about such every day phenomena before, and now they know why metal always feels so cool.
Week 3 Light: Mirrors With at least one friend or family member, explore and explain a property of mirrors. It can be something that we have already explored in class or something new. You choose how and what to explore. Please summarize your experiments and comment on what you learned about teaching and learning. Today, I did the mirror experiment that asks, where in this room would you be able to stand and see the object in the mirror? At first, my roommate was reluctant to participate, but once I told her the experiment, she was very intrigued and curious as to what would happen. As we started doing the experiment, her prediction was that she would be able to see the object if you were the same distance from the mirror. With a little guidance and support, I explained the powerful ideas about light and showed her the different angles at which the object was from the mirror. She then understood that it did not matter if you were at the same distance from the mirror, it was only important that the angle at which you were to the mirror was the same as the object. She was so happy to figure something out, and she was eager to find out more, asking questions and making more predictions. I learned that it is very hard to explain something without giving the answer away. I also learned that patience and understanding play a big role as the educator. You have to remember that students are learning this for the first time and that it will take some time to fully grasp the concept.

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