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Pomona College Workshop Provides High School Physics Teachers With Experiments for Their Classrooms

As concern continues to mount about U.S. competitiveness in math and science, Pomona College will host its Fourth Annual Physics Teachers Workshop on February 11, 2006, providing Southern California high school physics teachers with both updates on advances in physics and hands-on experiments designed to meet the time and budgetary constraints of a typical high school. Since the program began, 67 area teachers have participated in the free workshops.

Focusing on “Transferring Information with Light,” the workshops include a demonstration measuring the speed of light and two hands-on lab activities:

  • The "Communicating with Light Lab" is a series of station activities introducing the physics of transmitting "voice" information using electromagnetic signals or light. Students explore various aspects of electromagnetic communication from processing to transmitting to receiving. Topics covered in this lab include: signal modulation, signal switching, signal analysis, fiber optics, reflection, refraction, critical angle and signal conversion. The stations all relate to the topic of electromagnetic means of communication and require that the instructor connect the stations of activities into the central theme of communication. Class sets of laboratory kits will be available on loan from the Pomona College lending library.
  • The "Diffraction of Light Lab” is a direct and tangible experiment of the wave and diffraction properties of light. Diffraction is at the root of many technologies, scientific techniques and common visual phenomena. Using a laser pointer, teachers examine diffraction patterns from a range of objects. The diffraction from metal meshes gives quantitative confirmation of the wave nature of light. Teachers will then measure the track spacing on CDs and DVDs and the width of their hair using the wave model of light. Finally, students are asked to apply their experience of light diffraction to electron and X-ray diffraction images of matter. Class sets of laboratory kits will be available on loan from the Pomona College lending library.

According to David Tanenbaum, an associate professor of physics at Pomona College, “Most students get their first introduction to physics in high school classrooms, and we realize that many high school teachers have only minimal budgets and facilities. Our goal is to excite teachers and give them additional tools to excite their students. We hope the hands-on experiments will do that.”

To augment the workshops, Pomona College established a branch of the successful CNS Institute for Physics Teachers lending library in 2005, which allows teachers who have participated in one of the Pomona/CIPT workshops to borrow full classroom sets of supplies for many of the laboratory and demonstrations. Approximately 15 area teachers used lab materials in the library’s first year.

The 2006 Pomona College workshop is co-sponsored by Pomona College, the CNS Institute for Physics Teachers and the National Science Foundation. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Five and one-half in-service credits will be awarded for participation. The event will be held at the Pomona College Millikin Laboratory, 610 N. College Ave., Claremont, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For a more detailed schedule, call (909) 621-8724.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.