1. Balloons!

Thomas and Robin sincerely hope you enjoyed the first episode of the physics teaching podcast, and that you are enthused to do some more practical work in your classroom.  The physics teaching podcast is all about celebrating the professionalism of teachers of physics. We know that many of you don’t have the professional physics networks enjoyed by other subjects – either because you are the only physic teacher in your school, or you are a teacher of another subject who is stepping up to teach physics in the absence of a specialist.  Either way, your professional identity as a physics teacher is not properly celebrated, so be proud of the physics you teach by engaging with the podcast, posting on our Facebook page or Tweeting. Details are below. We are keen to hear from you if you would like to be a part of physics teaching podcast history and be among our first guests. Tell us a practical you love and why, and we will be in touch.

Practical work is such a central aspect of physics teaching, and yet it is under threat from shrinking budgets, ballooning workload and a lack of confidence or training in physics experimental techniques.  The wonderful Gatsby foundation recently produced a report on the importance of practical work in science.

In this episode:

  • Thomas introduced himself and his reasons for wanting to podcast;
  • Jessica Rowson from the IoP tells us how she loves using a balloon to explore ideas in physics;
    • By using water in the balloon to stop it popping over a candle and exploring the idea of heat sinks and specific heat capacity
    • By shining a laser on a black/white balloon and explaining why the black one pops
    • By challenging student misconceptions about how a rocket takes off
  • Robin tests Thomas on Newton’s third law;
  • Thomas reminisces about his first ever physics experiment.

We know that in schools generally and physics departments specifically there is real concern over the budgets available, and so it was great to hear from Jessica about a series of physics principles that you can show just using a balloon!  You often don’t need a lot of money to ‘do physics’ and something Robin mentioned was the work of Joe Brock in Africa where he showed how practical physics didn’t necessarily need expensive kit. Heis work is described in a beautifully detailed pdf.  Have a chat with your technician about this – I’ll bet that between you, you’ll find something there you can use.

It would be great if you could share ideas or successes on our Facebook Page – https://fb.me/physicstp – it won’t take a minute to sign up.  Alternatively, you can message us via our website https://the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, by email using the form below (or the address given in the podcast) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because may use your audio in a future episode.

The music in this episode is One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

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