Bridges within the Forum
Charles H. Holbrow
What can the Forum on Education and the AAPT do for each other? I
was a member of the APS Committee on Education as we worked in 1990-91
to found the FEd, and I remember our aspiration was to involve research
and industrial physicists in the rising efforts of their local communities
to improve science education in general and physics education in particular.
The objective of the Forum shall be the advancement and diffusion
of knowledge regarding the inter-relation of physics, physicists and
education. The Forum shall provide for all members of the Society an
opportunity for discussion of and involvement with matters of physics
The mission of the AAPT,
The objectives of this Association shall be the advancement of the
teaching of physics and the furtherance of an appreciation for
the role of physics in our culture certainly supports a similar goal
for its members.
The perspectives of FEd and AAPT members can be rather different,
however. About 3000 members of AAPT teach high-school physics, and
they are on the front-lines of state and local efforts to reshape science
education. Few of the approximately 4000 members of the FEd teach below
the college level, and an appreciable fraction of them do not teach
at all. At the local level their concerns are likely to be to see that
their children are well educated. Many also wish to help enrich local
school programs by bringing their own expertise into the school or
by providing access to the facilities of industrial, university, or
laboratory research organizations.
AAPT and APS staffs already co-operate in several important projects.
For example: APS (Fred Stein), with significant contributions from
AAPT and AIP, is leading the PhysTEC program to build links between
physics departments and schools of education in order to improve the
science preparation of K-8 teachers; AAPT (Bruce Mason), with significant
help from APS, AAS and AIP, is developing for the National Science
Digital Library (NSDL) a physics component that will provide physics
teachers with curricula resources keyed to the age and preparation
of their students.
But FEd and AAPT can benefit from direct cooperation. Let me mention
just two of many possibilities. First, anyone reading the FEd Newsletter
has to be struck by the thoughtfulness and the imagination of many
of its articles. The FEd thus acts as a think-tank for physics education,
a rich source of interesting ideas. AAPT publications -- The Physics
Teacher, the American Journal of Physics and the AAPT
Announcer -- are also sources of commentary about physics education. I
believe that more exchange of articles, more cross publication would
benefit members of both organizations.
Second, although AAPT and FEd share members of four-year colleges
and universities in common, we also connect to different parts of the
physics community. Where the FEd enlists the industrial, university
and research laboratory physicists that do not generally join AAPT,
an important portion of AAPT membership are energetic and imaginative
physics teachers from secondary schools and two-year colleges. These
non-overlapping constituencies of the FEd and the AAPT can benefit
from communication with each other. AAPT national meetings provide
a unique opportunity for people from the physics research community
to meet and talk with a wide variety of physics teachers. Recently,
at the behest of the FEd the APS has arranged for AAPT members to attend
for free the FEd-sponsored sessions at the APS March 2003 meeting.
AAPT is planning to respond with a similar gesture. By this kind of
cooperation the FEd and the AAPT can foster better communication between
various parts of the physics community, and everyone - especially physics
students - will benefit.
If you have ideas for other ways AAPT and FEd might cooperate, I would
be very pleased to receive them.
Charles Holbrow, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics in the
Department of Physics and Astronomy at Colgate University, is President-elect
of AAPT. He is an APS Fellow and a member of the Executive Committee
of the Forum on Education. firstname.lastname@example.org.