Focus on Physics: Physics Can Be Fun — and “Galileo is a Player!”

by Chloe Jones

Chloe Jones

The Physics class walked in on the first Monday morning of VAMPY and hit the ground running with content — our plan is to cover nearly an entire year of high school physics content in three weeks! By the end of the first week, we had covered scalars, vectors, most kinematic equations, Newton’s laws, projectiles, basic forces, free body diagrams, work, and power. We also did several experiments to show these concepts in action including finding the speed of a bubble, calculating a student’s reaction time, finding the velocity of a bullet shot out of a NERF gun, using trigonometry to navigate a park, and using the principles of forces to create a balloon hoverboard.

We didn’t slow down at all during the second week. We managed to teach the entirety of mechanics and move into the electromagnetism section of the class — my favorite part. The chemistry class joined us for demonstrations, and we were able to use a Van Der Graaf generator, provide rational reasoning on how to survive lightning strikes in a car, and teach the students how to create a makeshift auxiliary cord for their cars.

As we are nearing the last days of VAMPY, the students have learned how to properly and effectively use over 25 different equations to solve problems. They understand that physicists are problem-solvers and that these equations are simply tools in their toolbox. They are even using these skills to solve AP Physics I problems taken from previous AP exams.

The word “physics” is often met with a look of disgust, shock, or terror. Part of my job as a teaching assistant is to ensure that our seven students in choose a different, positive response to that word. My goal was that they would understand that physics is a fascinating subject that can include a variety of fun activities. This group of students has really taken that lesson to heart — I have never laughed so much in a physics class! Several distinct examples of this came during the demonstrations to accompany our discussion about Newton’s laws and forces. Whether it was Corey’s ability to master any trick Mr. Lee put in front of him, Malley’s claims that “Galileo was a player,” or Elliot’s karate chop to claim a dollar bill stuck between two glass Coke bottles, the students’ ability to enjoy learning has made my day every day of camp.