Choate Rosemary Hall Engages Students in “Doing Science”
PASCO equipment plays an important role in classroom physics
I firmly believe [PASCO equipment] offers students advantages when it comes to collecting information in real-time, making adjustments to the data and seeing the relationships between what they are learning in class and what they are experiencing.
Kevin Rogers, Head of Science Department
After 15 years, PASCO equipment continues to play an important role in physics instruction at Choate Rosemary Hall, a private school for grades
nine through 12 located in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Kevin Rogers, head of the science department, says student achievement
scores continue to improve, and, while evidence is largely anecdotal, PASCO equipment provides some important pedagogical advantages.
These advantages are valued at a school that designs its curriculum to inspire students to think critically and understand various methods of intellectual inquiry and their connections to each other. Technology supports this process.
Rogers says the school’s goal is to help students understand the role of
science and how to think scientifically. At Choate Rosemary Hall students
graduate with strong foundational knowledge and solid analytical skills.
“We want students to learn how to ask good questions—ones that can be
tested, and to understand correlation versus causation,” he says. “We
want them to develop healthy skepticism and not just buy into the
conclusions of others. It’s important for them to seek their own definitive
answers and apply scientific reasoning.”
Physics teachers use PASCO technology to engage students in “doing science” through project work, activities and inquiry-based exercises where they can make predictions and see what happens when they change the variables. It’s instantaneous and interactive. Technology not only lets them see the impact of their actions immediately, it also makes the process easier and more manageable.
“There’s a lot of painstaking work in taking measurements on paper, putting them in a manageable form and developing a picture for yourself,” says Rogers. “The technology connects students to phenomena without frustration and eliminates the time delay in creating their own picture. It
makes measurement easier, and students see the impact of what they do quickly without getting bogged down with the old ways of doing things."
“If they enter a wrong value into the computer by mistake, they just backspace and put in the right one,” he says. “It’s a lot less frustrating than fixing a graph by hand because they misrepresented a plot point. PASCO makes elegant experiments easy and it engenders a more positive experience. Students are not frustrated by lack of foresight, which they haven't yet developed.”
Students and teachers also appreciate how quickly they can set up the lab activities. “They can come into the classroom, plug in a temperature probe and collect data before you know it. It’s as easy as going to the cabinet and getting out a thermometer,” says Rogers.
We want them to develop healthy skepticism and not just buy into the conclusions of others. It’s important for them to seek their own definitive answers and apply scientific reasoning.
In the upper grades where students engage in more quantitative experimentation and ask deeper questions, Rogers stresses the importance of understanding the mechanics of physics and developing mechanical expertise using a variety of tools based on both old and new methods. In the lower grades, the focus is on building a foundation that enables students to make connections between lectures and labs.
“Asking questions and seeing results in real-time lets them make that connection,” he said. “Being able to ask questions, make adjustments, manipulate data, visualize and see results in real time reinforces what
happens in the real world. Once they have the foundation, students start to see the beauty and creativity of physics. That’s the most desirable outcome.”