APS News

Outreach Project Seeks APS Member Volunteers

As it prepares PhysicsQuest 2006, an activity for use in middle school science classrooms this fall, the APS Public Outreach Department is asking APS members to get involved in helping to promote the project in their local areas.

“Not only do we want to increase the number of classrooms participating in PhysicsQuest, but we want to foster a locally active community of physicists–one that impacts the science education in their local areas,” explains Jessica Clark, head of public outreach for APS.

APS first produced PhysicsQuest: The Search for Albert Einstein’s Hidden Treasure as part of the World Year of Physics 2005. Nearly 10,000 classes received PhysicsQuest activity kits in 2005. Feedback indicated that this activity met a need within the middle school science community for fun and accessible physics material, so APS decided to continue this program with PhysicsQuest 2006: Benjamin Franklin’s Secret Message.

PhysicsQuest is a story-based learning adventure that consists of a free kit that is sent to registered 6th to 9th grade physical science teachers. The kit includes teacher guides, student guides, and all of the materials that students need to complete four experiments.

The story revolves around a central character and each experiment gives students a clue they need to solve an overarching mystery. PhysicsQuest 2006 celebrates Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday year. Students will perform experiments inspired by Franklin’s work with lenses, electrostatics, and heat transfer while trying to decode a secret message from 1778. Optional extension activities are provided online, also free of charge, for teachers who wish to expand sections of PhysicsQuest into an in-depth lesson. Once the class solves the mystery they submit their results to APS for a chance to win prizes.

This year, in addition to sending direct mailings and advertising at appropriate meetings, the Public Outreach Department is asking APS members to help recruit classes in their area. “We are asking APS members to use their existing contacts in local schools or forge new connections,” says Kendra Rand, APS Public Outreach Specialist. Members can call physical science teachers and ask them to register for the project. Those who are motivated can also offer to go to the classroom to help conduct the experiments once the kit arrives, or offer to give a career talk, suggests Rand. The level of involvement for each member can vary from a phone call to a personal visit, depending on his or her own interest and that of the teacher.

“PhysicsQuest provides 6th to 9th grade students with a positive and fun experience with physics and we hope this will increase the numbers of students taking physics later in school. If we can add personal interaction with a real, live physicist, just imagine the impact on these kids’ education,” says Clark.

Interested members can get more information on the project and how to recruit classes on a special volunteer website, http://www.physicscentral.com/physicsquest/volunteer/.


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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff