Now that I’m working at a large sixth form college I wanted to try and set up an extra-curricular physics club. Taking advantage of having a pool of over 300 As and A2 students, compared to the 10 or so I had previously.
I have set up a lunchtime Physics Journal Club. The idea is that I will provide some stimulus material – an article, or a podcast – that everyone looks at before the meeting. I provide some questions to go with it to get them thinking about what we might talk about. We meet every two weeks so it’s not too much commitment and I have time to organise it!
I have an idea of where I will go over the weeks, but I’m not planning too far ahead. I have already decided the first few meetings will be on general science discussion topics so the group can get to know each other and feel comfortable talking together. Then I will move on to specific physics topics and the material will hopefully get more complex as the year goes on. I have told the students we will look at some recent physics results and experiments. It will be an opportunity to look at physics that is not covered by the A level course. I would like to look at some historical papers too – perhaps have something like an Einstein special. Clearly it’s my way of introducing things I like to students too 🙂
So how did it go? 15 students ( a mixture of AS and A2) turned up. A few more sent apologies. We talked for 45 minutes. I made sure everyone contributed and also tried to move the discussion on if it appeared we were getting stuck on a particular point. We had a real range of views from ‘everything is science, including drawing’ to ‘physics is the real science’ and ‘science is a way of approaching a problem that you can apply to any situation’.
The podcast discusses economics a lot because one of the guests (Evan Davis) is an economist and this filtered through to our discussion too. There was also a good range of opinions when I asked them if they considered themselves scientists.
I discovered it’s quite difficult for me to sit back and let other people talk (ha!) and all the biscuits I brought along seemed to be appreciated! Hope they come back next time and we can keep it going all year.
Next time: I’m going for a bad physics/science theme. Haven’t finalised the material yet, but think it will be an extract from Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World where he sets out his Baloney Detection Kit.