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Activities to Introduce High School Students to Physics

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

Physics may seem like a daunting subject to your students. This lesson contains engaging activities that will turn physics into an accessible and interesting subject.

Introducing Physics

Your students may think that physics is all math and abstract ideas, which can be pretty intimidating for a student. As you teach physics, it's important to connect the abstract ideas to concrete and hands-on activities that your students can learn from. By finding demonstrations or activities that convey the foundational concepts of physics in an accessible way, you'll help increase your students engagement.

The following activities will be helpful as you introduce physics to your high school students. The activities are hands-on and offer a creative way to pique their interest in physics.

Car Crash Physics

This activity is a great way to introduce the concepts of force and motion.

Materials:

  • Slow-motion videos of car wrecks (these videos can be found easily online)

Instructions:

  • Engage your students by asking them how they think physics might be related to driving cars. Do a think-pair-share with your students and jot down their responses.
  • Divide your students into pairs and show your class the slow-motion videos of car wrecks. In their pairs, ask your students to discuss which areas of the car are taking the majority of the impact. Ask your students to draw a diagram in which they mark the places on the car which are most affected by the force of impact.
  • Explain to your students that Newton's laws deal with the physics of force and motion. Display the three laws on the board. Ask your students to discuss the following questions in their pairs:
    • What evidence do you see from Newton's laws in the car wrecks?
    • Does anything from the laws surprise you? Why or why not?
  • As an extension, you could have your students design a car that they think would be able to withstand the impact of crash better than the ones from the videos.

Making Energy Waves

This activity is a way to introduce the concept of waves, the way that energy moves. Your students will learn about transverse and longitudinal waves.

Materials:

  • Thin strand of rope
  • Masking tape
  • Slinky

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