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By Leah Poffenberger
Since 2005, the APS PhysicsQuest program has been delivering physics experiments to middle school classrooms all across the country. These hands-on experiment kits, designed to help get kids interested in science, have been a hit with teachers and students alike. PhysicsQuest kits have traditionally consisted of teacher and student guides and all the materials to conduct four experiments, but thanks to a new grant and input from teachers, PhysicsQuest is hoping to offer even more with new online resources.
The Eucalyptus Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports science education efforts, has awarded PhysicsQuest a $400,000 grant to help expand and improve the program, specifically its online component. Starting in 2020, the grant will help bring PhysicsQuest alive with new video content from working scientists to educate and inspire students.
“We have been taking a lot of input from teachers, the [APS] Committee on Informing the Public, and others to find out what online resources they use and what gaps there are in the PhysicsQuest program,” says APS Public Engagement Manager James Roche. “We want to use online resources to bolster—not replace—the other parts of PhysicsQuest.”
A new online suite for PhysicsQuest will be designed to complement the teacher and student guides that classrooms already receive, with resources for teachers and students. Eventually, according to Roche, the online component of PhysicsQuest will include content such as lesson plans, experiment videos, and other educational tools.
“We’re early in the process of coming up with the best ways to provide resources, but we will start releasing content online with the 2020 kit,” says Roche. “It might not be the full suite of resources we’re working on, but it’s an exciting first step.”
The 2020 PhysicsQuest will feature NASA scientist Katherine Johnson in the activity guide, giving students an opportunity to learn more about her life while conducting experiments on force and motion. The online component will feature videos of other scientists who are currently doing related research who can share their personal stories to inspire the next generation.
“Thanks to the Eucalyptus Foundation grant, we are able to continue offering the PhysicsQuest program while making it even more accessible to a broader audience,” says Roche.
Signups to receive a 2020 PhysicsQuest kit will open online this summer. In the meantime, all past activity guides—including PhysicsQuest 2019 featuring “First Lady of Physics” Chien-Shiung Wu—are available online and include experiments that can be done with household items.
For more about the PhysicsQuest program visit the PhysicsQuest page.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik