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Program Goals
Program Components
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Program Goals

The PARTICLE (Physicists And Rochester Teachers Inventing CLassroom Experiments) Program, which has been implemented in Rochester area high school classrooms since 1999, is designed to fulfill two main goals:

  • To promote open-ended, inquiry-based experiments and student engagement in original research.
  • To increase student and teacher knowledge of modern physics, especially elementary particle physics.

Program Components

The PARTICLE Program has essentially three parts to it:

  • Summer Institute – This is a three week course during the summer at the University of Rochester for both new and returning teachers.
    • New teachers will build the cosmic ray detectors they will use in their classrooms and perform experiments with their detectors. Plenty of time is dedicated to working the laboratory so that new teachers will become comfortable with the entire experimental process that their students will go through: thinking of a question, designing an experiment to answer their question, collecting the necessary data, analyzing their data, and evaluating their results. New teachers will also attend lectures on topics in particle physics, such as the standard model, so they can bring that knowledge back to their classroom. There are opportunities for the new teachers to discuss pedagogy and talk about how to integrate the detectors into their classrooms. Returning teachers often participate in these discussions.
    • The Summer Institute is also a time for returning teachers to "come back" to the U of R. Returning teachers are encouraged either to work on developing resources for their classrooms or to bring their students to campus for a few weeks and do more extensive research with them.
  • Classroom Outreach – Cosmic ray detectors are available for use in the classroom during the school year. Teachers have integrated the detectors into their classrooms in different ways. For example, some teachers have used the detectors as part of an in-class lab during their modern physics unit while other teachers have encouraged their students to design and conduct a long-term research project outside of class. Throughout the school year, U of R physicists make themselves available as a resource for teachers. U of R physicists visit classrooms to give lectures on requested topics, to bring modern physics demonstrations, to assist students with their projects, and to provide technical support.
  • PARTICLE Day - This is a one-day poster conference at the end of the school year where students have the opportunity to share their research with their peers. In addition to learning what projects other students have been working on, students are taken on a tour of the physics labs at the University of Rochester.

High School Curricula

The PARTICLE Program addresses the following components of the New York State curriculum:

  • Lab Time – Experiments with cosmic ray detectors can help satisfy laboratory time requirements. The Physics, Chemistry, and Earth Science Regents curricula stipulate that 1200 minutes must be spent doing laboratory activities; students are also required to demonstrate laboratory skills to pass the course. The College Board recommends 2400 minutes of lab time before the AP exams.
  • Experimental Methods - Experiments with cosmic ray detectors designed and conducted by students meet science process skills outlined in Standards 1, 2, and 7 of the New York State curriculum.
  • Modern Physics Content – The New York State Regents Exam in Physics requires the following topics in modern physics to be covered in the course:
    • States of matter and energy are restricted to discrete values (quantized) (V.1, 5.3a).
    • Charge is quantized on two levels. On the atomic level, charge is restricted to the elementary charge. On the sub-nuclear level charge appears as fractional values of the elementary charge (quarks) (V.2, 5.3b).
    • On the atomic level, energy is emitted or absorbed in discrete packets called photons (V.3, 5.3c)
    • The energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency (V.4, 5.3d).
    • On the atomic level, energy and matter exhibit the characteristics of both waves and particles (V.5, 5.3e).
    • Among other things, mass-energy and charge are conserved at all levels (from subnuclear to cosmic) (V.6, 5.3f).
    • The Standard Model of Particle Physics has evolved from previous attempts to explain the nature of the atom and states that:
      • Atomic particles are composed of sub-nuclear particles.
      • The nucleus is a conglomeration of quarks which manifest themselves as protons and neutrons.
      • Each elementary particle has a corresponding antiparticle (V.7, 5.3g).
    • Behaviors and characteristics of matter, from the microscopic to the cosmic levels, are manifestations of its atomic structure. The macroscopic characteristics of matter, such as electrical and optical properties, are the result of microscopic interactions (V.8, 5.3h).
    • The total of the fundamental interactions is responsible for the appearance and behavior of the objects in the universe (V.9, 5.3i).
    • The fundamental source of all energy in the universe is the conversion of mass into energy (V.10, 5.3j) [20].

    While the AP Physics C course does not require modern physics topics, the AP Physics B course requires that the following topics in modern physics to be covered in the course:

    • Atomic Physics and Quantum Effects
      • Rutherford Scattering
      • Photoelectric Effect
      • Energy Level Diagrams
      • DeBroglie Wavelengths
      • X-ray Production
      • Compton Scatterin
    • Nuclear Physics
      • Radioactivity/Half-life
      • Mass number and charge of nuclei
      • Nuclear Force
      • Nuclear Fission
      • Mass-Energy Equivalence

For a detailed evaluation of the PARTICLE program, including how it coincides with the state curriculum, National Science Education Standards, and the Authentic Inquiry Framework, refer to Rachael Anderman’s Masters Thesis.

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Our many thanks to the support provided by:

Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, PO Box 270171, Rochester, NY 14627-0170, (585)-275-5306