Unlocking the inherent power of science in the classroom simply comes down to how effectively a teacher facilitates scientific experimentation. At North Tahoe High School, we have been able to acquire some incredible science tools over the years which allow our students to collect data in a precise, controlled, and often expedited way. Collectively, our science classrooms are now more effective than ever in allowing students to draw meaningful information about foundational scientific concepts directly through experimentation -- where their data informs their conclusions about the concept in question. Simply put, there is no better way for students to learn science.
Several years ago, the state of California adopted new science standards, known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards created a monumental shift in how science instruction was to take place in the classroom. Rather than traditional classroom standards, NGSS is based on teaching in a three dimensional format, linking together content standards with Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts that go across different science courses. With these standards comes an emphasis on Scientific Inquiry, where students are to challenge their misconceptions and to derive meaning about scientific concepts through data collection and analysis.
Another major shift with NGSS has to do with Earth and Space Science Standards. Typically, these standards would have been part of an Earth Science Course -- however, now these standards are to be taught across the standard 3 course model for science: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. One specific focus of these standards has to do with the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core in releasing energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation. We can study this emission through a spectral analysis process, where the different wavelengths and frequencies of the radiation emitted from the sun can be studied to determine the age of the sun. We also study this process in chemistry, to learn about how electronic transitions in different atoms result in unique emissions spectrums. They allow us to identify elements, much like using a fingerprint. Equipment like this is very powerful for students to be able to use in a high school classroom!
It is with the support of an Excellence in Education Grant that we plan to purchase a number of different emission study tools for student use across multiple classes: a Emissions Spectrophotometer, a Emissions Optical Fiber, Hydrogen and Helium Spectrum Tubes, and a Spectrum Tube Carousel. The Vernier Emissions Spectrometer allows students to conduct emissions analysis with their chromebooks. The spectrophotometer plugs directly into the student chromebooks via USB, and with the free spectral analysis software from Vernier, gives precise measurements over a range of 350–900 nm to examine spectra of light bulbs, spectrum tubes, or even the sun. The optical fiber is necessary for observations of emissions from discharge tubes. The carousel is a safe and effective way for students to plug in and view discharge tubes. Lastly, we are requesting additional hydrogen and helium discharge tubes, essential to understanding sun emissions and early models of the atom.