A ticket to physics land | Kobi Shvarzbord | TEDxWeizmannInstitute


Translator: Einat Sprinzak
Reviewer: Denise RQ I have here an empty glass standing directly
in front of a blue and white paper. If I fill it with water, what do you think
will happen to the colors? Will they remain the same
or will they appear different? Let’s check what you think. Who thinks that the colors
will remain the same? Who thinks that the colors
will appear different? OK. Most of you are right. Something will happen, but what? Let’s try it. This is one example of how I teach physics
in my class, in this case, optics. I ask questions, I make students think, predict, talk to each other and explain, I encourage and inspire curiosity, and they learn
through demonstrating an activity. Many students think that learning physics
is like climbing a cliff, hard, frustrating, and endless. (Laughter) Some of them get stuck in the middle and when they give up, they convert
their potential energy to kinetic energy. (Laughter) Physics doesn’t have
to be scary or difficult. Physics doesn’t have
to be boring or tiring. I see physics like a huge amusement park. I enjoy physics. I love physics.
I love to teach physics. So, I want my students
to feel the same vibe. We can teach physics in a variety
of methods so that students will have a deeper understanding
and have fun while they are learning it. My name is Kobi, Kobi Shvarzbord, and I have been a physics teacher
for the past 16 years. At my school, 25%
of the students study physics. This is 300% higher
than the national average. I have classes
in which almost 50% are girls. This is because I believe that teaching physics
should be exciting and fun. The focus of teaching and learning
is on what is actually being taught; not on the student
and not on the teacher, they are engaged in the activities. I am always in contact
with other teachers, sharing ideas about physics education. And school is not just my workplace. To be in class and to teach is my love, my fun, my challenge,
my adventure, my inspiration. So, I would like to invite you
to take a peek in my classroom, to my amusement park, Physics Land. We will begin right now. Let’s solve a problem just like I remember
from learning physics. Given the initial velocity of a ball and the horizontal distance
from the launching point, what is the height
above the launching level that the ball
will pass through in its motion? We can draw the ball.
Here is the initial velocity. We put the x, y coordinates
and we write an equation. The x component of the position
is the initial velocity, multiplied by cos(theta),
multiplied by time. Wait a minute, I just said
we can do it differently. My students get the same task
but they really do it. They calculate for different distances what height is that the ball will pass
through in its motion, and they need to attach
a small ring at that point. This is a team effort.
They take it very seriously. After we finish attaching all the rings we launch the ball, cross our fingers. Eight rings. One ball. Will it pass through all of them?
You’ve got to see it. (Cheers) (Applause) The response of the students is amazing. See how excited students
can get with physics! And they never forget to add
a selfie to our Facebook group. (Laughter) Is there any kid
who doesn’t like candies? What about gummy bears? Why not to use gummy bears in physics? Like – making waves. My students built a simple wave machine
with gummy bears. Yep, you heard right. Gummy bears.
You’ve got to see it. I need two volunteers please
to come and help me. Thank you, thank you. Come, you hold this side,
and you can hold this side. This is the difference I was looking for. This is an exciting activity, but at the same time, it deals with the basic concept
of mechanic waves and the common misconception
that students have about this topic. They actually measure
the speed of the wave and arrive to the conclusion that it depends on
the matter’s properties only. They see that the wave moves but the gummy bears stay
in the same position. One of the main misconceptions
that students have. Thank you for helping me. (Applause) After we finish the activity, and to be honest,
even during the experiment they eat the gummy bears (Laughter) so they realize that physics
can be also tasty and sweet. And I won’t even talk about
radioactive decay activity with M&M’s. As you can see food has a warm place
in my class and in my heart. (Laughter) Just before we finish our journey
I want to take you far away. I want to take you
to the particle accelerator at CERN, near the border of France and Switzerland, a visit to the cutting edge
of physics research. After I participated
in a high school teachers program at CERN, for three weeks, with teachers
from all over the world, I brought particle physics
into my classroom. My students built a particle detector. They could actually see the interaction between particles from cosmic rays
and the detector. They even play cards to understand
the Standard Model, the basic building blocks of matter. This activity was created by a group
of teachers from different countries. But most exciting,
I take my students to visit CERN. There, they can see the largest
and the most complex instrument that was ever built by humankind. At CERN they actually can see
how physics research is conducted, and they face the main questions
that physicists look for today. Why there is far more matter
than anti-matter in the Universe? What is dark matter? What is beyond the Standard Model?
Supersymmetry maybe? They realize that we don’t know everything
and we don’t understand everything. But most powerful for them [is the fact]
that they understand that perhaps, they are the future scientists
that may discover the answer for those questions. And if you can’t bring
your students to CERN, bring CERN to your students. Set up a virtual visit
or a video conference. I didn’t start teaching like this. Only after I’d been
a teacher for several years, I was looking to do something else. I wanted to do it differently
for my students. I want to do it more tangible,
more exciting, more significant to them. I want them to learn better,
to understand better, and have fun and enjoy themselves
at the same time. I didn’t create all of these activities.
I researched and had help. Teachers, you just need to want to find some good and exciting activities. It’s all out there. Search online. Reach out and share with other teachers. Become a member of a learning community
of physics teachers. Have the courage to start
and do it in class. In my class, physics is
no longer difficult, scary, or boring. My students know that physics
is all around us. Even on my T-shirt. So, you see, teaching physics differently is physics-ly possible! Thank you. (Applause)

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