Liveblogging here from the Fall Meeting of the Illinois and Iowa Sections of the American Association of Physics Teachers. The attendees are mostly high-school physics teachers, some from local colleges. Later tonight I’ll be giving a talk, but I can’t resist telling you about the delightful session we just had — WITHIT, or “What in the Heck is This?”
High-school science teachers live in a very different world than professional researchers. Typically a “department” is only one person, and when it comes to resources one has to be a little creative. So it’s quite common (I’ve just learned), when one first is hired, for the new teacher to be presented with a storeroom full of stuff that their predecessors had acquired one way or another. And this stuff doesn’t always come nicely packaged with detailed instructions and lesson plans.
Sometimes, indeed, it’s hard to figure out what the stuff is! So here at the FM of the IIS of the AAPT, people have been bringing in pieces of apparatus that have been lying around for decades and have become unmoored from their original purposes. They then show the wayward equipment to their assembled colleagues, and ask for help figuring out what the heck this thing is supposed to be. So far we’ve had experiments to measure kinetic energy, X-ray tubes, and an inverse-square-law apparatus.
I see great TV-show possibilities here. (After only one month of living in LA!) Could you imagine the tension as a bedraggled but hopeful physics teacher is told that their gizmo is an original Leonardo?