I blinked this week, and I missed it. On Tuesday, my summer reached its halfway point. I’ve been busy and distracted and I’ve been working to make the days count – helping my wife, running errands, gardening, driving my kids to activities, or driving to and from Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. I’ve had some time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate, but I wish I had a container to bottle up summer and hold it for a time when I really could use it, but I don’t.
I’ve been busy this past week at Beauty and Charm and I’ve been busy all day. It’s made my brain hurt and that’s been a good thing – it’s made me think about what I’ll be teaching next year and ways I can teach it so that kids get it, understand it, and enjoy it because next year is going to be a challenge for me. I am switching content areas and grade levels. Since I began teaching fifteen years ago, I’ve taught Language Arts or Geography as my concentration and all but one of those years has been spent teaching seventh grade. It’s tricky to explain, but at the middle school level social studies is typically a shared subject. Teachers are organized into teams of three or four teachers; each teacher teaches one subject – math, science, reading, and English and each teacher teaches one class period of social studies. It’s not a perfect system but it works because at the middle level, education is more focused on developing the student’s skills in reading, writing, math, thinking, and organization. So much is developing between sixth and eighth grade socially, emotionally, and physically that academic or intellectual development is miniscule in comparison. Next year I’ll be teaching science to eighth graders. I am excited, but at the same time, it’ll be my first time to teach science. Ever. So, I know it’ll be fun, but it’s also going to be a challenge.
That is how I ended up at Beauty and Charm. It’s a class for middle level science teachers about how to teach particle physics. It was held at Fermilab – Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Until Monday, my concept of sub-atomic particles was limited to the proton, neutron, and electron. Physicists have been very busy since I took chemistry and physics in the 1970s and 1980s. They’ve added quarks, muons, and neutrinos and I needed a refresher. After a week on the Fermilab campus, full of lecture, campus tours to see high-energy physics experiments at work, as well as hands-on leaning activities I know still have a lot to learn but I feel much more competent.
That’s where I discovered the bubble chamber above, Monday morning. The bubble chamber was filled with 8,000 gallons of liquid helium and used to help physicists see the particles after bubble trails left by sub-atomic particles after they had been accelerated close to the speed of light and smashed into smithereens. The resulting subatomic particles left trails in the liquid helium and led to the discovery of the bottom quark in 1977 and the discovery of the top quark in 1995. Quarks are the building blocks of protons and neutrons. I have purposely over-simplified the concepts because after a week of quarks, leptons, neutrinos, muons, and atomic forces – I am on overload.
Fortunately, I have a few weeks for all of this new knowledge to sink in. I am glad I took the class, one of my new eighth grade teammates took the class with me and we’d share a look and talk when we had time to discuss over lunch or on breaks. I am excited and I think the students will enjoy particle physics much more because of the content and activities I learned this week. I am grateful for Fermilab because of the resources they have available for me (and everyone) to use – below is a Fermilab physicist explaining the standard model.
Today is the 39th day of summer vacation and it’s late – almost 10 PM – tomorrow is a new day I have thirty-two days left of summer break – thirty-two days to learn more about science and to prepare for a new year of learning. Thirty-two days to spend on summer fun and summer promises. Today WAS a GREAT day and tomorrow promises to be a million and six times better. Making the days Count, one day at a time, and one learning experience at a time.
What do you remember from middle school science?
Today’s post is in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge – prompt – at Word Press. The week’s prompt is “Containers.” This week, share your own vision of a container you find interesting. You can take the challenge as literally as you want — a box of chocolates, a broken bottle, your town’s water tank, an empty shell on the beach. Or go in a more figurative direction — from the skin that wraps our body to the comfort of a hug, we all constantly hold and are held by other things and other people.