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Physics Lessons

The physics lessons are incorporated into three units of the PULSE curricula. The three units are Powerful Explorations of Health and Energy, Shifting the Balance towards Health and Protecting Human Subjects: Skin Cancer Clinical Studies. There are physics components to other units as well.


The lessons are organized to concentrate on important big ideas, which are addressed by a learning cycle approach. At the completion of each big idea’s learning cycle students should be able to answer the corresponding driving question.

Typically, each learning cycle contains four lessons. The lessons associated with a specific learning cycle may take from a couple of days to a few weeks to complete. The first lesson engages the students' interest in the big idea, prompting them to demonstrate the background they bring to the topic and to ask questions. In the second lesson, students explore the big idea, searching for answers to their questions and expanding their understanding of the concept. The third lesson is an opportunity for students to explain the big idea. In the fourth lesson the students apply what they learned to a new situation.

The physics learning cycles of Powerful Explorations of Health and Energy, Shifting the Balance towards Health and Protecting Human Subjects: Skin Cancer Clinical Studies, address National Education Standards for physics and students explore concepts of physics that have shaped the America’s history. These three units also address social studies, language arts and general mathematics.

  • In "Powerful Explorations of Health and Energy", described below, students investigate the role government plays in protecting human health by considering the impact of laws and policies on health. The government must also reflect health concerns related to the impact energy creating industries have on the environment and the environmental health impact of the use of energy sources.
  • In "Shifting the Balance towards Health", described below, students investigate how the Government policies can play crucial roles in protecting us and our health from a myriad of environmental factors, specifically those which humans have control over. In this unit students will explore the judicial routes that have and can be taken to impact governmental policy regarding environmental health factors.
  • In "Protecting Human Subjects: Skin Cancer Clinical Studies", described below, students investigate the cutting edge technologies in both physics and biology which are being implemented for both detecting and curing disease. Students also learn about the modern history of scientific research involving human subjects and what regulations and documents exist for the protection of these participants.

At the end of the unit, the students will be able to apply their new scientific understanding to the Major Project where they produce a product to demonstrate what they learned in the unit.

  • For "Powerful Explorations of Health and Energy", students will organize a moot court. A moot court provides the venue for students to assimilate what they have learned from science, government, language arts and mathematics as they address environmental health and biomedical issues. In preparation for this moot court they must research cases related to environmental health or biotechnology and drug issues. They will prepare for the case and carry it out using the background they have developed over the past semester.
  • For "Shifting the Balance towards Health", students will form a task force that has been called together to talk about energy policies, but it isn’t all about how are we going to get fuel our world, we also must figure out how to do this with as little impact on human health as possible. Task force members include those who are particularly interested in this aspect of energy policy.
  • For "Protecting Human Subjects: Skin Cancer Clinical Studies", Students will participate in a simulation of a Senate hearing before the committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The subject of the hearing is to determine whether the Senate will approve a bill proposing federal regulations on the use of tanning booths by minors and a mandated education program on sun awareness.

 

"Powerful Explorations of Health and Energy"
6 Essential Questions for 6 Big Ideas
Project time to complete: 8 weeks
     
1
What can we do to minimize the environmental health impacts of our inevitable consumption of energy?
Big Idea
Our society is heavily dependent on the energy we consume. The consumption of this energy contributes to environmental health concerns.
     
2
Where does our energy come from?
Big Idea
Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. All traditional energy sources are finite in nature, and their use inevitably causes pollution and/or waste.
     
3
What is electricity? What laws govern its behavior?
Big Idea
A large portion of the energy we consume is in the form of electricity. Electricity performs work by electrons flowing through a circuit.
     
4
How are magnets used to generate electricity?
Big Idea
Electricity is generated using electromagnetic fields in machines called turbines. There are many different ways of driving these turbines, such as falling water and steam.
     
5 Where did the energy stored in fossil fuels originally come from? Are fossil fuels renewable?
Big Idea
Fossil fuels are used to generate electricity by the conversion of their stored chemical-potential energy to heat. This heat is then used to power a turbine. The burning and mining of fossil fuels creates pollution.
     
6
Where does the energy of nuclear reactions come from? Is nuclear energy safe? Renewable?
Big Idea

The process used to power nuclear reactors is called fission. This involves the splitting of large, unstable atoms into smaller ones, which generates a lot of heat, as well as dangerous nuclear waste.

     

 

"Shifting the Balance towards Health"
4 Essential Questions for 4 Big Ideas
Project time to complete: 8 weeks
     
1
 
Big Idea
     
2
 
Big Idea
     
3
 
Big Idea
     
4
 
Big Idea
     

 

"Protecting Human Subjects: Skin Cancer Clinical Studies"
1 Essential Question for 1 Big Ideas
Project time to complete: 2 weeks
     
1
What are the underlying physics principles in biomedical imaging and how do they inform individuals on use of imaging?
Big Idea
Biomedical imaging has allowed great advances in diagnosis, but no single technique is adequate to address all issues. It is important to understand the underlying physical principles in order to appreciate the diagnostic possibilities of each method.
     

 

 

 

 

 

 


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:


an
NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award

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Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694


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Last update: March 7, 2007
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