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Physics of Christmas lesson

I tried this last year with a bunch of mostly KS3 classes. Think I’m going to give it a go again with one of my additional science classes. Might be nice to take the heat out of the pace of the year so far.


Magnetic field of Ganymede

I now teach KS3 science and with the inclusion of more magnetism in the new national curriculum it is important to remind ourselves about cool things. I consider magnetism in space to be one of these. I wonder what response I’ll get by playing a radio clip to half of my students and the other just the text. Bound to get mostly “sir, is that really you?’.

Flickr Astronomy: aurora and star trials


Flickr photo

Auroral displays are simply one of the most fantastic events you can see in the sky. That this is due to particles being accelerated in the Earth’s magnetic field always makes me think “cool”. Lovely bit of atomic transition physics going on as well. Definitely should be talked about in secondary school magnetism and chemistry lessons.

LDR Measurements

A group of my students tried out a quick experiment to investigate a bunch of our LDRs – mostly to see if they were all working and we decided that it would be nice to plot a graph of the results. This post is as much for me to find these results again for the future, but you never know someone else might find these useful for verification or just to confirm that at low bulb currents you do, indeed, get some high resistances!

LDR Current – Resistance

LDR Current - Resistance

LDR Current - Resistance

Physics of Christmas lesson

Well its almost Christmas and I decided that this would be a great chance to do a bit of extra engagement with a few of my classes. We have also just completed a whole term of (KS3) physics. This means we have encountered, forces, light, electricity and energy. So why not do a lesson of application that is not just an exam. So here is my plan (going to try it tomorrow) – well a rough write up of a plan with associated resources:

Physics of Christmas

Calculate the speed of Father Christmas
Explain assumptions made in calculations
Evaluate situations and suggest solutions

Starter: Ask students to produce a list of what they think could be physics to do with Christmas.

Main: Circus activity where groups of students spend 5 minutes at each station to complete a challenge using their physics understanding from the previous term.

Plenary: Students complete an extended piece of writing about the physics of Christmas.

I have created both a worksheet for students and info sheets / challenge for each station (see links).

Let me know if you try any of this, I’m going to give this a go and post my review of my lessons.

National Astronomy Week Lesson Plans

Just over a month ago I was asked if I’d like to be involved in National Astronomy week (2014) by putting together some lesson plans. As this coincided nicely with a visit from OFSTED I managed to put a few ideas together for their website. I’ve included them below, they are still rather drafty and will need bulking out for any class but the overall ideas and structure are there (bit like the Edexcel SoW).  I’ve trialed a couple of these activities and have made resources that I’ll upload when I get a moment…. but now back to the EM waves lesson I’m planning for tomorrow.


Title: How did Galileo observe Jupiter?

Big Picture: How do we know the Sun is at the centre of the Solar System?

Lesson Overview: Students complete a practical investigation to build a simple refracting telescope like that of Galileo.

Learning outcomes:

Describe how observations provide evidence

Explain how light travels through concave and convex lenses

Design and build a telescope

Outline of activities:

Task 1: Explore Galileo’s observations

Task 2: Use concave and convex lenses with ray boxes to draw how light rays pass through lenses

Task 3: Measure the focal length of the lenses from a diagram

Task 4: Use your measurements to design a telescope that focuses light to a point.

Plenary: Write a tweet @NAW? to describe how a telescope is built


Title: Exploring Jupiter

Big Picture: How do spacecraft alter our view of the Universe?

Lesson Overview: Students will explore what we know about Jupiter. They will design mission to Jupiter and deliver a presentation to their peers.

Learning Outcomes:

List the main features of Jupiter

Design a scientific experiment

Evaluate scientific options and present a reasoned conclusion

Outline of activities:

Task 1: Picture of Jupiter and Moons in hall, students have to replicate the picture and answer levelled questions. The ones who get the most point get a prize.

Task 2: Comprehension on Jupiter task. In pairs the students read out a passage back to back on Jupiter – they then have 3 minutes to make notes that will be used in the next task.

Task 3: You are part of an international team (group of 3/4) who are putting together a bid to put a spacecraft around Jupiter. (Each group is a different nation and are given a primary task e.g. exploring Io, weather formation on Jupiter, the effects of impacts on Jupiter’s atmosphere). They have an information pack and have to put together a visual aid and a presentation on their mission. Each group is given 1 minute to present. Each presentation is given a rating out of 10 by their peers on both presentation and scientific content. All groups have to write a WWW and EBI for the other groups. The team of 4 have to give a percentage of effort for each student – if you use vivos offer 50 then this will force a non-even split. At the end all groups vote on best design.

Plenary: Students write a tweet that they would send from their spacecraft


Title: How important is Jupiter?

Lesson Overview: Students will gather information on Jupiter and will create a poster

Outline of activities:

Task 1: Gather information from around the room on Jupiter – create a mind map

Task 2: Create a poster on how Jupiter is important to life on the Earth (SL9 is the key here)

Task 3: Condense ideas into 140 character tweet @NAW?

Model eye demonstration

I’m currently in the mist of teaching GCSE Extension Physics (in particular Edexcel’s P3) and there are lots of nice optics in there. In particular about the eye. I strongly feel that the students would understand how each part of the eye works by doing a dissection but alas we currently do not have the budget for this. Next best thing a model… not just a plastic one.

Model of the eye with fluorescence

Model of the eye

So how does this work? Well that is 4 litre flask (with some Fluorescein in) that has a beam of light from a ray box (would work better with a more directional source) and lenses on the front. You could put various on at once but I decided it was best to just do one at a time. By using different focal length lenses (representing the cornea+lens) you are able to show different vision defects. The paths of light are clearly visible. We then used different lenses in front of the model to show how the beams of light are altered. Basically we mimicked what an optician would do – giving a nice How Science Works link.