Fermilab AAAS/AAPT

AAPT Session: Particle Physics in the High School

Sunday, Feb.15, 9:00AM - 11:30AM


The Recipe for the Universe in the High School Classroom.

Speaker:Randy Ruchti, Department of Physics


The high school classroom is a great place to engage and challenge students about the nature of the universe. Notably, particle physics experiments lend themselves well to enriching the curriculum by providing, direct from discovery physics, examples of energy and momentum conservation, particle identification, and the search for new phenomena. Pathways to the classroom are forged through research partnerships of university faculty and staff with high school teachers, immersive research experiences for teachers and students, and the availability of detectors to operate in a classroom setting and simulated and real data from experiments worldwide for students to analyze. Several national programs that are developing these pathways will be highlighted, including QuarkNet and I2U2 (Interactions in Understanding the Universe).

How Examples From Particle Physics Support Standards-based Physics Curricula

Speaker:Marge Bardeen, Fermilab


Conservation of momentum and energy. Science as inquiry, the nature of science. Working with vectors, large datasets or the statistics of large numbers. At Fermilab we have worked with master teachers for over 20 years to bring the excitement of cutting-edge physics to the high school classroom. Efforts range from activities that can be sprinkled throughout the curriculum to longer term web-based investigations where students experience the environment of scientific collaborations. Learn what you and your students can do in your classroom . . . tomorrow.

Nuclear Astrophysics Outreach Program Now Employs Researcher's Equipment for Enhancement

Speaker:Amy DeLine, Central Michigan University


The Physics of Atomic Nuclei (PAN) outreach program of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory has been revised to now use the Modular Neutron Array (MoNA), a million-dollar research neutron detector. High school teachers and students learn about detectors, Large Hadron Collider Physics and nuclear theory in seminars and then perform experiments with MoNA using their new knowledge. The goal is to prepare teachers to present a unit on nuclear physics and stimulate students to become interested in studying nuclear physics and science in general. Coordinators of the program have found hands-on experiments with real research materials to be very beneficial for the learning of both teachers and students. At the end of PAN 2008, 95% of students and 100% of teachers would "Probably" or "Definitely" recommend the PAN program to their colleagues.

Particle Physics Through Cosmology

Speaker:Todd Brown, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg


The study of cosmology is closely linked to that of particle physics. Our current understanding of the first moments of the universe depends critically upon our insight into the interactions of particles. In addition, dark matter plays an integral role in understanding how the universe is evolving. The Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP) has developed a chart, titled "History and Fate of the Universe," that can be used in the high school classroom to teach these topics. The features of this chart and its use in teaching particle physics will be discussed.

Use of Cosmic Ray eLab to Teach the Research Process

Speaker:Deborah Roudebush, Oakton High School


Physics students at Oakton High School use the Cosmic Ray eLab to learn the research process. Students access the database of muon detector data from around the world to develop research questions and practice controlling variable. Advanced students use the Oakton High School muon detector for data collection to support research questions for science fair. The Cosmic Ray eLab is supported in part by the National Science Foundation and the Office of High Energy Physics in the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.

Particle Physics for Everyone

Speaker:Gordon Aubrecht, Ohio State University


Particle physics has generated intense interest in physics during the past half century. The Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP), a volunteer non-profit organization of educators and scientists, has been developing materials to support the introduction of contemporary physics topics into high school and college introductory physics for 20 years. This talk will feature the latest version of the wallchart on the Standard Model of Particles and Interactions as well as supporting activities and materials. Placemat size charts will be distributed to those in attendance. Special emphasis will be given to how the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN will affect our knowledge of the Standard Model and using the chart to teach about these topics.

The Particle Physics Masterclass

Speaker:Shane Wood, Irondale High School


The European Particle Physics Outreach Group (EPPOG) has organized particle physics Masterclasses in which high school students use data from CERN's Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) experiments and simulated data from CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments to better understand the world of quarks and leptons. This spring (March 2009) will be the second year in which the United States has participated in the Masterclasses, allowing students to learn more about particle physics through real analysis of particle physics data, and real international collaboration through video conference. This presentation will highlight some of the main features of this Masterclass, and how high school teachers and students may become involved in this exciting collaboration.

Teaching the History of Nuclear Science with the CPEP Wallchart

Speaker:Michael Cherney, Creighton University


The Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP), a volunteer nonprofit organization of educators and scientists, has been developing materials to support the introduction of contemporary physics topics into high school and college introductory physics for 20 years. This talk will feature an updated wallchart on nuclear science as well as the supporting activities and materials. Placemat size charts will be distributed to those in attendance. Special emphasis will be given to using the chart to explain the history of nuclear science and the new physics from heavy ion collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (CERN) and at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (Brookhaven National Laboratory).

Particle Physics Through Fusion

Speaker:Katrina Brown, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg


The solar p-p fusion chain can be treated in the classroom as an application of particle physics. It can be used to show students an example of matter-antimatter annihilation, the weak interaction, and can be used to introduce fundamental particles such as positrons, electrons, and neutrinos. In addition, if the solar neutrino problem is discussed, considerable material on leptons and neutrinos can be covered while introducing the students to a contemporary physics problem. Ideas for covering this material in the classroom will be discussed.

Authentic Experimental Research at the High School Level

Speaker:Sophia Gershman, Watchung Hills Regional High School


An expansion of undergraduate and pre-college research opportunities and classes has been taking place in response to the growing need for scientifically savvy citizenry. This paper shares the extensive experience in the development of an educational environment suitable for authentic experimental research conducted by high school students. The framework for building mentorship relationships between teachers and students receives particular attention. The facility development and outside collaborations are also discussed. Specific examples of student projects are presented, including the experiments in psychology, plasma physics, environmental science, and other science fields. The research laboratory environment has been used for teaching Physics and Experimental Design courses, and for special research programs. High school students present unique developmental needs and advantages. High schools provide an opportunity to create a model scientific community that intensifies student learning and helps them develop a broad set of science skills.


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