Week 5: Meetings, Model Airplane and More Lesson Plans, Oh My!

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Sunday, June 29, 2014


Jacob Zalkind

Meetings, Model Airplane and More Lesson Plans, Oh My!

This week has by far been the busiest week that at College Park since my arrival here 4 weeks ago now! After a nice relaxing weekend in DC (the first weekend I've actually been here since week 1) with the other interns, I began the busy week by jumping right on into it! Last week, our team, consisting of Simon and I, as well as Graduate Research Assistants Sine and Sharina, was charged with creating two lesson plans apiece ready to show to Dr. Good on Monday by 3:00 to demonstrate the fruits our research has yielded. By the time that we were to have "tea with the professor", we all had our lesson plans in hand ready to be shared with our group. The two lessons that I came up with were ones that I was quite proud of by the time they were ready to be shown to the others. The first one was a lesson about African-American Physicists and Astronomers who were involved with the military in one form or another. During my research I identified several scientists who were involved in the military at some point in their lives, so I made a lesson centered around student-based research of these individuals studying aspects of their involvement in the military, as well as their accomplishments in both the military and in their respective fields as scientists. There is really a rich history behind these people and there can be a lot more information derived from learning about them regarding things like drafting to the military and segregation in the military. There's a lot to see and study in a lesson like this. The other lesson I created was more physics oriented and involved the study of African-American physicists with interests in arts and athletics. This lesson involves taking a look at the science of a lot of these arts and sports and the people involved with them. After a brief discussion of these aspects of the lesson, the class would move forward to do a case study of a particular physicist-athlete who competed in a past Summer Olympics and do various calculations regarding his story. So as you can see, that was already a lot to put together and that was only Monday!

On Tuesday we, as a team, had a phone interview with a member of another oral history preservation organization as well as a meeting with a person who works with the Statistical Research Center here at the ACP to see what more light we can shed on the subject of African-Americans in physics and astronomy. We also met with our buddy down in the SOCK, Kearns (Mark was busy on a 2 hour business call) to discuss integrating some of the SOCK experiments into some of our lesson plans that we are developing. Between everything else, we also have to keep chugging away at completing our list of lesson plans, but admittedly, towards the middle of this week I was struggling to think of some ideas that I felt would work well in a classroom teaching this particular subject. So I devolved to doing more research and reading on the subject so that I could better brainstorm more ideas for good lessons. By the end of the day on Wednesday, I didn't just have a brainstorm......it was more like a brain-hurricane! The lesson I came up with was centered around the evolution of Astronomy and the African-Americans associated with the science. This is a big lesson with multiple components that could be applied in either a history or a science classroom. Two of the parts revolve around reading excerpts, one from a source about Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer of the 1700s, and seeing how astronomy was used back then, and another from an interview with George Carruthers, an astrophysicist and aerospace engineer involved with the Naval Research Lab around the time of the space race. After these two parts, the lesson could diverge into one of two parts; one history focused and another physics focused. The history part would essentially be more follow up research regarding astronomers and astrophysicists from Carruthers' time on to see the further evolution of astronomy and the associated African-American scientists. The physics based part takes the obligatory catapult project from a high school physics class, and changes it into one that's more associated with aerospace engineering and physics, namely making paper airplanes. This part of the lesson would have students create various designs of paper airplanes and fly them against each other to see which ones would be the most stable and which ones would fly the farthest and try to figure out why one would be better than the other. It's just another way of trying to make Physics Phun!

Photo: Some of the weirder planes that I made and tested out as well as some research material for the week

Jacob Zalkind