I am teaching physical science this semester. It appears that I will be teaching it again this summer. Ideally, I would like to switch to something like Physics and Everyday Thinking for large lecture courses. A course like this is being developed, but it isn’t quite finished. Also, the current version includes chemistry and physics. I really need something different (we offer physical science 101 is physics and 102 is chemistry).
The current course is pretty traditional. Your basic physical science stuff. It has the following content.
- Forces and Motion
- Newton’s Laws
- Projectile motion and gravity (these first three are like 4 chapters)
- Pressure, fluids, buoyancy
- Thermodynamics and stuff
- Electric interactions
- Waves and Sound
- Light and electromagnetic waves
Maybe not exactly that order, but you get the idea. Pretty traditional stuff.
But here is what I am thinking. What is the purpose of this course? Why are students taking it? What do I want them to get out of it? Does it need to prepare them for any future courses? The answer to last question is “no”. The second physical science course (the chemistry one) does not have any pre-reqs. In fact, students can take these in any order. The other questions can maybe be answered by describing this as a course for non-science majors that satisfies their general education requirements.
Here is my new plan. Maybe structure the course something like this:
- Fundamental forces (basically gravity and electromagnetic forces)
- Force and motion (very simple – saying forces CHANGE motion)
- Energy and conservation of energy
- Atomic nature of matter
- Basic quantum nature of matter – you know, Bohr model type stuff
- Light and spectroscopy
- Cool stuff that can be explained with the above for the rest of the semester
I would still use the same textbook, it basically has all these ideas in there, just not in the same order.