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Tom Henderson

Preston Hayes


Course Description




Welcome to ChemPhys!!! ChemPhys is an accelerated high school chemistry and physics course. The physics portion is devoted to understanding the concepts and principles which underlie all physical phenomena. The primary focus of the course is to construct accurate mental models which appropriately depict the behavior of waves, sound, and light, the motion of objects, and the nature of electricity. A wealth of our time is spent making applications of physical principles in order to analyze real-world situations. These applications are often mathematical applications of physical principles. Yet whether the application is mathematical in nature or not, the application will always emerge from a strong conceptual understanding of physics principles. Contrary to popular belief, difficulty in physics can almost always be traced back to conceptual misunderstandings, not mathematical difficulties. For this reason a strong conceptual emphasis will be common in this course.

In order to instill a strong conceptual understanding, efforts are made to provide repeated review and recycling of major concepts, to provide opportunities to explore concepts in multiple modes of representations (verbal, pictorial, graphical, numerical, audio-visual, etc.), and to utilize a developmental approach which relates new information to previously learned information. A learning cycle approach to instruction is utilized; a concept is introduced by way of an informal, exploratory activity, which is followed by conceptual development exercises (handouts, labs, etc.), and culminated with an application activity in which students express their understanding (usually by applying it to a laboratory problem). The goal of this instructional strategy is to assist the student in constructing an internalized and conceptual understanding of physics.

Since the goal of this physics course has to do with understanding and applying (rather than merely knowing), a student would be wise to adjust their approach to learning towards this end goal. The appropriate approach to learning is one in which the student mind is active and engaged. Avoid passivity - a mental posture which treats learning as the act of soaking up information like a sponge. A passive approach to learning places a heavy demand upon the mental muscles which control memorization. In physics, these memorization muscles will seldom be used; and when used, will lead students into frustration rather than success. The mental muscles which will be most valuable to a physics student are those which control critical and analytical thinking. To maximize your success, adopt a mental posture which treats physics as a belief system which must be pondered, thought about, evaluated and reflected upon. Rather than being a body of knowledge which must be memorized, physics is a belief about the behavior and relationships of the physical world which must be understood and applied towards the explanation of observable phenomena.

While the structure of the course is built upon the goal of understanding the conceptual nature of physics, considerable attention will be given to the mathematical nature of the discipline. For example, methods of graphical analysis will be utilized to derive fundamental equations from raw laboratory data; algebraic manipulation of these equations will be performed in order to solve for unknown quantities; conversion factors will be used in order to convert from English to metric units (and vice versa); trigonometric functions will be utilized in order to examine the relationship between certain quantities; geometric relationships will be used in proofs to establish the validity of certain physical relationships. Given this strong mathematical emphasis, a solid grasp of algebra and trigonometry is required (and assumed) for success in this course.

The final emphasis of this course is upon the development of skills. It is common for many ChemPhys students to ultimately venture into a career in physics, engineering, or science. With this in mind, the course has been designed to provide a thorough and integrated understanding of physics principles. Yet, it is recognized that the content of this course will ultimately be the least important feature for numerous other students who will pursue careers in business, law, advertising, medicine, etc. Such students will seldom need to know an obscure formula or trite fact from the world of physics. For such students, the cognitive and technological skills which are emphasized throughout the course will make the most lasting and useful contribution. The common denominators of all careers include the ability to reason deductively, the ability to make logical judgments, the ability to analyze and interpret information, the ability to communicate, and the ability to utilize modern technology to acquire and present information. For this reason, the development of cognitive and technological skills is emphasized throughout the course.

The pace of ChemPhys is fast. You will need to read and study daily. Paper homework is seldom collected; labwork is nearly always collected. Most homework is submitted (and often graded) online; this allows for multiple opportunities to correct/perfect your work. Maintain a self-regulated, disciplined habit of studying. Study often, study regularly, and study to learn (not to earn points). Consider the Minds On Physics modules and the Internet Problem Sets to be a pre-test. You can use these resources as often or as little as you like; they provide immediate feedback and multiple opportunities for correction. Use the reading sheets effectively; they're meant to target your misconceptions and assist in the development of a strong conceptual understanding. The real value of the reading sheets (and other packet exercises) will not be in having the answers, but rather in involving oneself in the process of acquiring the answers. In ChemPhys, it the process of learning and not the product of learning which is critical. ChemPhys is not a spectator sport; you must get involved in the game.

Lab work is frequent (every 2-3 class days). Absences severely hinder your ability to grasp important material; you need to make every effort to come to class! You need to learn the whereabouts and value of the various resources which are available - most specifically, those resources found on the GBS Web server. You need to be organized; bring the curricular packets to class on a daily basis; keep it organized and use it to optimize your learning. Finally, you need to be relaxed; take time to enjoy science's effort to understand the physical world. Enjoy the demonstrations and labs; laugh at corny jokes; chuckle at the phunny names. Just generally have phun!


Good Luck!!

Mr. Henderson






Survival Packet Contents:

[ Cover Page | Course Description | Grading Policy | Policy on Late Work and Makeup Work | The Be Attitudes | Problem Solving Tips | Graphical Analysis of Data | Henderson's Incomplete List of Frequently Used Abbreviations ]



E-mail: Tom Henderson || Last update: 8/24/2001