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The FEd has organized many interesting sessions at both APS spring meetings. I urge you, if you are in Pittsburgh March 16-20 or in Denver May 2-5 to attend these sessions. See article below. Members of the FEd Executive Committee welcome your comments and feedback on these sessions: content, usefulness to you as a listener, questions posed, attendance and anything else such as your thoughts on sessions at the 2010 APS meetings; this feedback will be invaluble for future planning.
Middle School Science -- PhysicsQuest/FEd Project
Becky Thompson-Flagg, APS's new Head of Public Outreach and I have been working together to define this project. The aim is to find ways for APS members, in particular those who have expressed a strong interest in physics education by joining the FEd, to help as volunteers to improve middle school science teaching. We propose ways they can work with middle school science teachers who are using APS's PhysicsQuest kits. (see article by Becky Thompson-Flagg)
Because PhysicsQuest is a well-established and self-contained program it is an excellent way to begin a relationship between members and schools. It also means that the time commitment is variable.
These interactions can take many possible forms. A FEd member could meet with the teacher and discuss the kit. A member could help a class through e-mails and calls with teachers and students or by actually running the program at their local school. If a physicist is directly involved with the students in any way they can see what physicists are like at the same time they are learning about what physics is. A FEd member could also help arrange a school field trip to his/her place of work. This could become the beginning of a relationship with your local school.
We have begun by selecting some schools and teachers who have kits and FEd members who live or work near the school (using zip codes) and asking each if they have the time and would be interested in making contact. We realize that there are hurdles to surmount in fostering productive relationships. Using phone calls, emails and written guidelines we will try and work our way through these challenges. FEd members are invited to contact Becky or me if they would like to participate.
Mini-grants of up to $500 are available and turnaround is fast. Examples of past mini-grants are providing a prize for an essay competition among high school students at a Section meeting or partial support for a community physics day for high school students and teachers with a guest speaker. We have also decided that grant funds may be used to purchase a small key item of equipment as long as the connection to the educational outreach activities are clear and that the grant is to an institution or organization to ensure continued use. With all mini-grants we request a short news item and photos for the FEd newsletter.
In the FEd Summer 2008 Newsletter, Larry Woolf tried an experiment. He obtained copies of all the Spring invited talks (March meeting in New Orleans and April meeting in St. Louis), posted them to a web page, and in the newsletter provided brief description of those talks and links to them. It appears (unless someone volunteers to be an editor or co-editor – see below) that I will be editing the Summer 2009 newsletter. Do members feel that we should do the same thing again? It is a considerable amount work but I’m happy to undertake it if it is useful. Let me know!
Newsletter Editors needed!
Here is a brief “job description” for a FEd newsletter editor. There are 3 issues per year and historically we have had 3 editors, one per issue. So for an individual it is a once/year task. The process needs to begin well in advance of the deadlines. We try and have the Fall issue completed by the end of the calendar year (October 1 submission deadline), the Spring issue out in time for copies to be available at the Spring APS meetings (in 2010 the first of these, the so-called April meeting, will be in February so that impacts the newsletter schedule), and the Summer issue in time for copies to be available at the AAPT summer meeting. The Editor either solely or in consultation with members of the FEd Executive Committee decides if there will be a theme, and if so what the theme will be. Then the editor makes a list of articles and authors, contacts and solicits the submissions, and as they come in edits them. In most cases the editing is “light.” But there are usually some articles that need significant revision or shortening to improve them. Each editor has an individual style – mine is to encourage graphical content (graphs, photographs, even animations and in the future possible YouTube clips) since the newsletter is on-line and I feel one should take advantage of the opportunities the technology offers. But that is up to the individual editor. As in any volunteer organization we welcome new blood to participate in FEd activities. Right now a particular need is for newsletter editors. If you think this is something you would enjoy doing, let me know.
Optimism for the future
With the appointment of prominent scientists to top government positions in President Obama’s Science Team, I am optimistic that we will see increased emphasis and support for improving physics and physical science education at all levels.
Ernest Malamud, retired from Fermilab, is currently a member of the Adjunct Faculty at the University of Nevada in Reno. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org