Physics and Biology: Helping students understand their ‘connections’

Topic: Helping students understand ‘connections’ between physics and biology
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Physics, Biology
Authors: Shusaku Horibe, Bret Underwood, Peter Timbie, University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Submission Date: June 17, 2008

Executive Summary: The goal of the lesson is for students to develop an understanding of how physics is connected to biology through the building of physics models of biological phenomena.

We developed three versions of the lesson, evaluating Versions 1 and 2 and making changes based on those evaluations. In Version 1 students engaged in model building activities and were asked to develop physics-based models for a variety of biological and physiological facts. In Version 2 significant modifications were made to address difficulties students had in meeting the learning goals of Version 1. In particular, the number of different biological facts students were asked to model was reduced significantly, and more attention was paid to developing students’ model building skills. Only minor modifications were made in Version 3 to help provide more feedback and a clearer framework for model building to students.

We found that students suffered from several difficulties that prevented them from achieving the learning goals: a lack of conceptual understanding; underdeveloped models; and a lack of reflection on the models that they built. The revisions in the lesson were designed to address these difficulties, resulting in a lesson, which provides ample opportunities for feedback to students on the model building process and how it helps to make connections between physics and biology

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Chemistry and Physics: Capstone Lab in Rocketry Design

Title: Capstone Lab in Rocket Design
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Chemistry, Physics
Authors: Douglas Weittenhiller, Robert Koch, University of Wisconsin – Baraboo/Sauk County
Submission Date: August 17, 2007

General Physics l & ll is the calculus based Physics course taught at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County. This course presents the basic concepts of physics as they apply to mechanics, heat, wave motion, sound, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, light and nuclear physics.  It consists of lectures, discussion, and labs.  The lectures and discussions emphasize conceptual understanding as well as problem solving.  The labs use a hands-on, activity-based approach to learning physics concepts.  This course is designed for students whose program requires 1 year of physics or those who plan to take further courses in physics.  This project would allow the students to utilize their knowledge of mechanics and motion to design an aerodynamic rocket body to house a chemical motor and to calculate it’s max. altitude theoretically and compare the value to an experimental one.

General Chemistry l & ll is a one-year course in college chemistry.  It consists of lectures, discussion, and labs.  This course is designed for students whose program requires 1 year of chemistry or those who plan to take further courses in chemistry. This project would allow the students to utilize their knowledge of chemistry to fabricate a safe chemical motor.

Summary: The Physics students never did get to work with the Chemistry students as a team; however, they each individually designed a model rocket body to house a chemical motor propellant.  We also had (3) lectures/discussions pertaining to rockets. The 1st one was discussing the physics behind rockets- more in depth than the textbook material.  The 2nd one was an open discussion on how to calculate the max. altitude of a rocket theoretically and group work solving a sample problem similar to how we would do it during the lesson study. The 3rd meeting was a hands-on experiment launching a toy model rocket (no motor included) and then we used geometrical methods to determine the actual altitude of the rocket.

Chemistry and Physics Lesson Study: Capstone Lab in Rocketry Design (Final Report)