If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Smatterings... Physics First?

The Boy has a deep interest in physics, an interest we have not explored nearly enough. In all my recent research, I keep coming across the same idea... that a study of physics should precede studies of biology and chemistry, rather than occupying last place in a student's science rotation.

Why? (the following is excerpted from Reasons to Teach Physics Before Biology and Chemistry)

  • Physics is a more concrete science that encourages exploration and improves oral and written communication skills. (source)
  • Students who take physics first are more likely to continue in science, enrolling in rigorous levels of chemistry and biology. (source)
  • "In studying physics, students study algebra simultaneously, motivating them with a sense of the power of mathematics." (source)
  • "Physics begins with everyday phenomena requiring few new words: motion, velocity, acceleration, falling objects, a sense of gravity as a force, and some new concepts, e.g. mass, momentum, and energy, but with crisp definitions." (source)

Of course, much of this is in reference to high school aged students, which I don't have... yet. But why not physics first for a middle school student? The Well Trained Mind advocates a 4 year cycle: biology; earth/space; chemistry; physics. I am looking at turning this on its head, more or less: physics, then chemistry, followed by biology and anatomy, and then earth/space.

Of course there is, conversely, the idea of intertwining the threads of science, which is posited in Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, a book I dearly love, but have yet to implement well. I was actually just looking over my flow charts for volumes 1-2, and though about trying to rearrange them so that we immerse ourselves a little more in each thread/topic, rather than skipping around. Hmmmm.....

I think for now, we'll work through this book (which has some chemistry too - bonus!)...

And I may add in some information from this, which happens to be one of The Boy's all time favorite books...

We'll give the "Physics First" argument a good trial, and then go from there!


  1. We're really enjoying physics this year, too. Our favorite physics "experiment book" has been Backyard Ballistics. Hands down. We've had a blasting good time with that book. Pun intended. ;-)


  2. My 13 year old daughter has been begging to take more physics for two years now, ever since a short unit with it but not sure how to successfully accomplish it since I am so not a science person. I am hoping next year for 9th grade I can find a local science class for her. We've tried a couple books at home and experiments, etc but it always falls rather flat and isn't very exciting. I think she'd have more fun with other kids doing the same stuff.


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