Led by Master Teacher Charles Canestaro, of the Cortland Enlarged City School District, the group started the day with the ever popular Foutan Boards kit. The boards, one of the most charismatic items offered by CHESS’s Physics Teachers Lending Library, gave the teachers an opportunity to learn about the structure and behavior of current and voltage in circuits. Working with small groups, the teachers manipulated the components and predicted which switch positions were required to light certain bulbs. After testing their predictions, they began to construct their own understanding of series and parallel circuits.
Next in the line-up was the Notebook Circuits investigation. Following the lab’s user-friendly protocol, and with the equipment and materials of the corresponding kit, teachers delved deeper into concepts of energy and current using simple, but very effective, paper models. Voltmeters and ammeters allowed them to calculate equivalent resistances, and with Mr. Canestaro guidance, they were all able to extract laws for series and parallel circuits from their own data.
The day ended with the implementation of popular Nature of Resistance investigation, and its namesake kit, known among teachers as the “Play-doh lab.” The lab offers a series of guided activities that illustrate how different characteristics of metals contribute to resistance and current flow. The participants experimented with Play-doh circuits and after learning the effect of length and cross-sectional area on resistance they built a Play-doh dimmer switch. They then ‘competed’ in a series of build-your-own circuit challenges where they could demonstrate their newly acquired knowledge. The prizes? “Energy sticks” to prove how well humans can conduct electricity (including most high schoolers!).
The workshop illustrated Mr. Canestaro’s mastery of effective pedagogical practices and served as a springboard for the latest educational partnership between CHESS and three institutions in Puerto Rico, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, Universidad Metropolitana and Universidad del Turabo. Professor Lymari Fuentes-Claudio from Universidad Metropolitana, was one of the attendees of the workshop. “Mr. Canestaro’s teaching methods were inspiring, and his enthusiasm for the subject matter contagious.” said Fuentes-Claudio. Over the next six years, she will be working with graduate students to adapt investigations from the CHESS Lending Library to fit the education and outreach requirements of the recently awarded Partnership in Research and Education in Materials (PREM) grant funded by the National Science Foundation. Lymari and other faculty members will train students in how to develop and deliver effective inquiry-based activities and modules to high school teachers. Says Fuentes-Claudio, “It was great to spend the better part of the day learning alongside a group of dedicated teachers and graduate students. My colleagues and I are looking forward to developing a Master Teachers Program as part of our Center for Interfacial Electrochemistry of Energy Materials (CiE2M) in collaborating with CHESS’s Education and Outreach program in the future”.