First Day of Physical Science Outline: Mr. P’s Sound Beginnings

From the Initiative for the Renewal of Science Education series.

It’s the first day of school. Students arrive at Mr. P’s Physical Science class with a mix of anxiety, interest and uncertainty. What will this year be like in science class? How difficult will the class be? Where are my friends sitting? Who are these new students I do not know? I can’t believe I’m sitting in class right now when just yesterday at this time I was fishing at Bear Creek with my best friend Justin, enjoying the last day of summer vacation…

Thoughts are also racing through Mr. P’s mind as the students amble into class and take a seat. I can’t believe how much Charlie grew this summer. Who are these new students I don’t recognize? I hope I give a good introduction to the course and am able to foster some genuine interest in the subject today.

Mr. P sits at his desk calling out roll. When his name is called, each student comes forward to get a copy of his textbook and a marble notebook for class notes. Mr. P stands and instructs the students to take out their notebooks and write today’s date on the first page. He goes over basic class procedures and how grading will work. Some students start writing notes right away. Others start once he mentions his “rule” that if it is written on the board then it had better also be written in the notebook.

And then the critical time arrives. All the administrative details are complete. Mr. P has the full attention of the class and twenty-five minutes remain. He knows that what he says now will set the tone for the entire year. He knows that he needs to say something about science, what it is and why we should be interested in learning it. He knows that he needs to specifically explain what this eighth grade Physical Science class is all about. The textbook, though it has some great material on Newton’s laws and chemical reactions, is not particularly good at introducing the subject. How should Mr. P begin?

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Michael Moynihan

About the author:

Michael Moynihan

A native of Rochester, NY, Michael Moynihan earned B.A. degrees in history and science pre-professional studies with a concentration in the Honors Program from the University of Notre Dame. He graduated Summa Cum Laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After teaching for one year and earning a master’s degree in theology from The Catholic University of America, he joined the faculty of The Heights School in 1995. He has taught chemistry, Advanced Placement chemistry, eighth grade science, ethics, math and religion, has coached The Heights’ cross-country team and founded The Heights Mountaineers program. Michael was named Head of the Upper School in 2002. He and his wife, Angela, have eleven children, with four sons here at the School.

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