Week 7: Adventures with physics teachers

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Brean Prefontaine

This was one of the most exciting weeks I have had so far this summer! I felt as though I was able to experience many different things and I loved it. The weekend started off with a trip to Mount Vernon with Veronica. While it was extremely hot over the weekend, Mount Vernon was beautiful. We were able to take a tour of George Washington’s home that is set up on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. George Washington's mansion at Mt. VernonNo pictures were allowed in the mansion, but I made sure to get some of the outside and of the rest of the grounds as we were exploring. There was some restoration work on the outside of the mansion, so that was disappointing and took away from the historical feel. However, the inside of the mansion was beautiful and many of the furnishings were original.

After the mansion tour, Veronica and I decided to walk around the estate. We first went by some of the smaller buildings around the mansion that included a coach house, horse stables, a kitchen, and a meat pantry. Further down the path closer to the river was an ice house (building where they would store ice from the Potomac River so that food could be kept cold during the summer months; it is a really old version of a freezer). We were also able to see the old tomb (the George and Martha Washington were first buried) and the new George Washington's tomb at Mt. vernontomb (where they are now buried). Close to the new tomb is a slave burial ground where many slaves that worked on the estate were buried. I thought it was interesting that there was a team of archeologists working on a project that would identify where and how many slaves were buried in this area. It was made clear that only soil samples would be used to determine these pieces of information so that no one would be disturbed. Along with the slave burial ground, there was a slave memorial paying homage to all of the slaves that had worked on the grounds.

Following this same path, we came down to the banks of the Potomac River where George Washington had a wharf. Next to the wharf was a small farm that showed the crop rotation process that George Washington had used in his four farms. Along with crops, there were also some pens of livestock enclosed with a split-rail fence. At the end of the farm was a replica a the 16-sided threshing barn that George Washington had designed to thresh his wheat. This was where I realized that Mount Vernon was once a huge estate that equalled aboutWharf on the Potomac River at Mt. Vernon 8,000 acres of land. Now, the Mount Vernon that Veronica and I visited was only about 500 acres. To me, this was incredible because we had been walking around this place all morning and now it was time to stop for some lunch.

After lunch we went on to tour the gardens some more and to go down to the road to the grist mill and distillery. The mill and distillery were easily the best part of the day. Both of these buildings were replicas build on top of where the originals once stood but they both worked exactly as the originals would have. While inside the mill, the workers demonstrated how corn could be milled down into a fine material (which in this case would be used for composting soil). In the distillery, we were able to see the process of making whiskey as George Washington once did (I had no idea that he became very rich at the end of his life because he manufactured whiskey).

Since our trip to Mount Vernon was an all day adventure and very tiring, Veronica and I decided to only go on a short adventure to Eastern Market on Sunday morning. The idea was to get to the market before it became unbearably hot, but there was a heat wave over Running to the National Cathedral after it finally cools offthe weekend and this did not happen. It was incredibly hot over the weekend (over 100 degrees on Sunday) and we were covered in sweat by the time we even got to the market. Eastern Market is more than just a farmers’ market, but there are booths for various foods, crafts, clothes, and art. For lunch I had a strawberry lemonade and a spinach and cheese empanada. It was delicious! If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend visiting Eastern Market because it seems like one of those places where you never really know what you are going to find. When it finally cooled off a bit, I went for a run to the National Cathedral and it was as beautiful as ever.

This week we have nine teachers from around the nation coming for four days to help us with our lesson plans. Monday morning they arrived at ACP and got started on becoming acquainted with the history department, Dr. Good, and just AIP in general. However, Connor and I were not there to greet them Monday morning because we were on our final tour of the summer. This was a tour of the Capitol, where Drew and Elias have been working all summer in science policy positions. Unfortunately Connor and I were only able to stay for the morning, but we were able to go on the guided tour of the capitol building. This was pretty neat because there is currently construction on the dome of the capitol building and apparently that was the last day that the guided tour would stop inside the dome. We were also taken to the crypt and the old House of Representatives chamber. After the tour, it was back to ACP for Connor and I to greet the teachers.

Much of the week spent with the teachers was working on revising and getting feedback about the lesson plans. We also spent a significant amount of time playing all three games that were creating this summer (and the teachers loved all of them!). This week was a much needed change in work and I really loved talking to all of the teachers. We spent all of our days with the teachers and participated in the tour of the library and archives, a meeting with AAPT, and all of the activities that Dr. Good had planned. Through this workshop, One of the nine teachers that came to visit this week!we were able to identify and brainstorm some future directions for this project. We definitely want/need to revise the website that houses all of these lesson plan. There was also a suggestion of adding a curriculum guide so that teachers could easily see what topics these lesson plans might fall under in their class. I will be working on some of these suggestions for the two extra weeks that I am here, however there is also much for next year’s interns to work on. So, get ready!

Overall, this was a great week! I was able to adventure around the Washington DC area some more and it was encouraging to talk to teachers about their profession. With the AAPT summer conference coming up this weekend and next week, I am sure that I will continue to stay busy and in the company of some wonderful physics teachers. Cheers!


Brean Prefontaine