High School Teachers Get a Physics Refresher in Weeklong Workshop

This is the eighth year the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UC Riverside has hosted the popular Summer Physics Academy

UC Riverside’s Vivek Aji gave a refresher on electricity and magnetism at the Summer Physics Academy on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.Photo credit: M. Sherkat, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A Summer Physics Academy took place this week at the University of California, Riverside.   In its eighth year, the academy is a weeklong workshop that trains and equips local high school physics teachers with practical and conceptual physics lessons, hands-on activities, curriculum and technology to use in their own classrooms.

The academy’s goal is to reach out to local high school students through their teachers so that the students are encouraged to learn physics and be prepared for physics courses at the college level.

Twenty teachers participated in the academy this year; the Department of Physics and Astronomy, which hosted the academy, received about 50 applications.

UC Riverside's Richard Seto gave a refresher on classical mechanics to 20 high school teachers at the Summer Physics Academy.Photo credit: M. Sherkat, UC Riverside.

UC Riverside’s Richard Seto gave a refresher on classical mechanics to 20 high school teachers at the Summer Physics Academy.Photo credit: M. Sherkat, UC Riverside.

“We have about 20 teachers participating each year, most of whom are first-timers,” said Leonid Pryadko, an associate professor of physics and academy, who led the organization of this year’s academy.  “All the teachers this year are new to the academy.  Overall, that’s about 150 teachers over the years.  Assuming each teacher teaches 100 students a year, that’s 15,000 students affected annually!”

Typically, the participating teachers attend a two-hour physics refresher class and two hour-long research presentations each morning.  After lunch the teachers attend more research talks, participate in a hands-on undergraduate lab, and visit a research lab.

“Our teachers come from all sorts of backgrounds and have a variety of experience levels,” Pryadko said.   “I have learned quite a few things from them, starting with how hard it is to be a teacher these days, but also some great demos and some resources for teaching physics.”

Maria Chiara Simani, the director of the California Science Project, gave a tutorial to the teachers on new science standards.

“The number of students taking physics in high schools in our region is increasing,” she said. “The Summer Physics Academy could be one of the reasons. We know for sure that those few teachers who have stayed in contact with the Department of Physics and Astronomy throughout the years and participated in other activities in the department have their students enroll as physics majors at UCR. At least 10-15 percent of our freshmen come from teachers that participated in our programs.”

Each participating teacher was paid $400 to attend all five days of the academy. Breakfast, lunch, parking pass, and some demos were provided.

“Coming to UC Riverside, the teachers get to share our excitement, and I think this is the nicest thing about the academy,” Pryadko said.  “Teachers regularly rate highest among our activities the research talks by our professors – and occasionally by our postdocs – and the lab visits.”

Pryadko and Simani were assisted in the organization of the academy by Hai-Bo Yu, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy.  Simani selected the teachers for this year’s academy.

A full schedule of this year’s academy can be found here.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-6050
E-mail: iqbal@ucr.edu
Twitter: UCR_Sciencenews

Additional Contacts

Leonid Pryadko
Tel: (951) 827-5644
E-mail: leonid.pryadko@ucr.edu

Maria Chiara Simani
Tel: (951) 827-3111
E-mail: maria.simani@ucr.edu

Hai-Boi Yu
Tel: (951) 827-5321
E-mail: hai-bo.yu@ucr.edu

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