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Science Note: The sky hook - a centre of mass illusion

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Frank Harris

Extract: In the UK, centre of mass experiments used to be plentiful and aimed at 12-13 year-old students. Currently, however, the topic of centre of mass and centre of weight seems to have shifted to an older age group (16-16 year-olds) to appear as a standard experiment on finding the centre of mass of an irregular-shaped card and a consideration of equilibrium, stability and toppling.

Ocean Literacy

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Russell Arnott

Extract: Promoted Feature - For the last two years, I have been visiting in schools across the UK and Ireland aiming to teach pupils and teachers about the marine environment. Under the banner of WhaleFest, the world’s largest marine festival, I visit schools and festivals with a life-size inflatable orca (aka a killer whale) aiming to enthuse people about the sea.

Using test data to find misconceptions in secondary science

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Travis T. Fuchs and Mike Arsenault

Extract: Students, as well as teachers, often learn what makes sense to them, even when it is wrong. These misconceptions are a problem. The authors sought a quick, quantitative way of identifying student misconceptions in secondary science. Using the University of Toronto’s National Biology Competition test data, this article presents a method of quickly identifying misconceptions that agree with many facets of the extant misconception literature (ubiquity across subject areas, pervasiveness regardless of question difficulty, and distractive power). Seeking students’ most common wrong answer on a multiple-choice test is found to be a fast, reliable, and data-driven way to identify misconceptions.

What is a chemical element?

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Marten J. ten Hoor

Extract: Contrary to current IUPAC recommendations, the chemical element X should be defined as the nucleus of the X atom. Consequently, different isotopes with their different nuclei belong to different elements, each one with its own physical and chemical properties. This view leads to the conclusion that we no longer have a periodic table of the elements, but a periodic table of isotopes instead.

Touch-initiated reaction of nitrogen triiodide as a template for activation energy classroom discussions

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Duncan Short

Extract: Activation energies form an energy barrier to a chemical reaction taking place. Simple collision theory, i.e. that particles need to collide to react, would suggest that activation energy is the energy needed to overcome a coulombic barrier provided by the negatively charged electrons contained within energy shells surrounding an atomic nucleus. Deriving activation energy from experiment is usually beyond the school curriculum. What can be demonstrated, however, is an almost barrierless reaction initiated by the slightest touch or vibration for the decomposition of nitrogen triiodide. This spectacular demonstration can be combined with calculations on bond enthalpies to help further understanding.

Using the REACT strategy to understand physical and chemical changes

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Neslihan Ültay, Seda Çavuş Güngören and Eser Ültay

Extract: Students often struggle to determine whether changes in matter are physical or chemical; for example, they may have difficulty labelling a candle melting as a physical change but a candle burning as chemical change. Here we describe a lesson that we used to integrate conceptual learning about physical and chemical changes using the ‘REACT’ strategy (relating, experiencing, applying, cooperating and transferring) using daily life examples. The activities cover one REACT cycle delivered over two lesson periods. In the activities, examples of physical and chemical change are taken from daily life. Students are actively involved in the activities and at the end of the experiencing stage, they should be able to distinguish physical and chemical changes and to define the changes occurring in the matter at the molecular level.

Heat transfer in a paper cup

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Carla Ribeiro

Extract: The double-wall paper cup is an everyday object that can be used in the laboratory to study heat transfer. The experiment described here has been done by physics students aged 12–13 years; it can also be used in a different context to prompt debate about environmental issues.

The use of force notation to detect students’ misconceptions: mutual interactions case

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Ahcene Serhane, Abdelhamid Zeghdaoui and Mehdi Debiache

Extract: Using a conventional notation for representing forces on diagrams, students were presented with questions on the interaction between two objects. The results show that complete understanding of Newton’s Third Law of Motion is quite rare, and that some problems relate to misunderstanding which force acts on each body. The use of the terms ‘action’ and ‘reaction’ in this specific context, compared with their general use, was also found to be misleading.

The ripple tank: management and observation

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Geoff Auty

Extract: This overview is intended to help colleagues achieve successful and satisfying observations using a ripple tank. There are many observations to consider that can effectively illustrate reflection, refraction, interference and diffraction, but the most important consideration is to make every effort to enable students to see the effects we want them to see. Some of the content is based on articles written many years ago. This update is offered especially to help younger teachers develop confidence in the use of this equipment.

Optimal learning in schools – theoretical evidence: Part 2 Updating Piaget

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: John Crossland

Extract: Part 1 in this four-part series of articles discussed Piaget’s theories of learning and development (Crossland, 2016). Part 2 explores how post-Piagetian researchers have addressed criticisms of Piaget’s theories by linking recent evidence including that from neuroscience. The outcomes show that good teachers make a difference by implementing classroom-based optimal learning strategies. This new evidence brings Piaget’s theories into the 21st century and leads to a clearer definition of optimal learning in the classroom.

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