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A New Way to Learn: Physics With Ms. Brown

Filling out a construction permit and electrically wiring a house aren’t considered to be the average physics lesson, but for Kari Brown and her students, this is what they’ve been working on for the last few weeks.

Students were required to draft a blueprint of their houses.

Students were assigned to conduct the project as an architect or construction worker would, from designing the blueprint to correctly wiring the house.

“Adding the floor plan and the building permit application gives them that real life practice, and holds them accountable for planning it the way you would a real home,” explained Brown. “I loved that they get to decorate it with whatever theme they want, it means they get really into it, and the fact that the lights light up and the switches actually work, it’s really exciting for them.”

Each group had the freedom to design the exterior and interior of the house as they wished, giving them the creative liberty to personalize many aspects.

“I feel like it really allows us to be creative and learn physics in an interesting way,” said 6th period student Abby Weiss. Her partner, Cyprien Boustiha, commented on the collaborative aspect of the project, “It’s a team effort, and I’m understanding how electrical circuits work.”

Other physics students share the same opinion. “My favorite part of this project is getting to collaborate with my partner and make decisions together because it’s a real life experience,” explained Sai Sema.

Some groups went all out with their decorations, including a pool in the yard.

Although this project allows students to creatively explore physics, both Brown and her students have encountered difficulties. Because all the students run into similar problems, Brown finds herself “running around like a crazy person trying to answer all the questions.”

All students agreed that the technical aspects were the most challenging. When asked about the hardest part of the project, Timmy Berthier and Joey Olshausen both shouted, “the wiring!.” In addition to the electrical component, Nils Glader said, “The planning out was hard because there are so many different options you can do.” Despite the difficulties, all groups shared a sense of camaraderie in the classroom, feeling like “a family. We’re like neighbors,” laughed Berthier.

Joey Olshausen, J.D. Carson, Nils Glader, and Timmy Berthier pose by their project.

After completing this project, Brown hopes that her students “walk away from it going like ‘I can do this, I can learn how to use these pieces, I can figure things out and build things.’” This project gives the students a practical opportunity working to the standards of the “generation science standards, where you design, build, and then test it.”

Students also recognize the applicability of this project. Sema commented, “What if your light shuts off and you don’t know how to fix it, maybe running a circuit in the house will do the trick!” These lessons can extend beyond the physics classroom, “It helps with time management, like all other projects,” said Katelynn Fichou.

A completed interior of a circuit house.

“So much of what we do now is on the computer, and it’s separated from us somehow, but this is physical, it’s right in front of you, and you can create stuff that does cool things,” explained Brown. This project is applicable in different aspects of the students’ future and is one of the reasons it has held up to the test of time.

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