Physics 1 Lab Science, Course Description

Lab Science at SAS Pudong consists of four semesters of science courses that are taken by all students in grades 9 and 10. The courses include:

  • Biology 1, Chemistry 1, and Physics 1 (grade 9 and first semester of grade 10)
  • CHOICE OF ONE: Biology 2, Chemistry 2, Physics 2 (second semester of grade 10)

The goal for all of these courses is to develop laboratory and scientific thinking practices of importance in all advanced level science courses. There is no particular order for the level 1 courses, although they all involve scientific practices of increasing sophistication. Hence, Physics 1 in grade 10 is not identical to Physics 1 in grade 9.


Student Work and the Digital Portfolio


By the end of the semester, students in Physics 1 should have a digital portfolio of work. A copy of major assignments is kept by the teacher, while students will also display work on their own web pages (typically using the "iwebpd" server at our school).

Student work is directed towards achievement in five categories that are described below. This is certainly not the only way to look at how to develop your abilities in science, but it is the approach we will use this semester.

Developing and Applying Models: Scientific reasoning is developed by students through a variety of activities as they explain models, predictions, and design decisions. Students use labeled diagrams, distinguish assumptions from deductions, and use mathematics to make predictions more quantitative. Quizzes and tests are one means of showing your understanding in this area, but you will also show your reasoning skills when you write reports of your scientific and design investigations.

Lab Techniques: Controlled Experiments involve the development of lab skills for the collection of accurate and precise data. The long term goal of such experiments is to improve our ability to make predictions. However, scientists spend a great deal of effort on the development of protocols and techniques for the collection of reliable data. This is frequently our most immediate achievement during our high school science investigations.

Data Analysis: Students also learn to interpret graphs, distinguishing between linear and non-linear behavior.

Engineering Design Challenges: involve the development and construction of designs to meet performance criteria. Students gain confidence in the use of tools, materials, and the application of science concepts to engineering problems.

Connections: One assignment during the semester will be focused on making connections between science and other areas of human interest.


Course Standards, Topic Areas, and Grades

(Please check this link on Grades, Standards, and Competition to understand more about the complications of these aspects of your school experience.)

You can find detailed standards related to your work in this science class by checking the links at this "Skills and Scaffolding" page. The work from your digital portfolio and from quizzes and tests is meant to provide evidence of your achievement of these standards.

Your grade at the end of the semester will be determined based on your highest, consistent achievement of standards. The table below shows a typical list of grades for the semester:

Assessed Area  

Fundamentals: V = IR, I = Q/t; history of discovery of static electricity and of batteries; scale of atoms; electrons and Coulombs; short circuits and open circuits; simple series and parallel circuits; electrons behavior in atoms, in metals, in space; electromagnets. Major assessments: Quizzes

Advanced: Internal resistance of batteries; basic electronics including 555 timer, capacitors, transistors, relays, logic gates, LED's, sensors (light, temperature, magnetic); f = 1/T; CV = Q; 1/2CV^2 = U. Major assessments: Quizzes, written analysis of circuits

Electricity--Lab Techniques

Fundamentals: Use of voltmeter, ammeter, ohmmeter, Vernier voltage and current sensors; control of key variables; communication of procedures; preparation of data tables. Major assessments: Salt Water Battery controlled experiments

Advanced: Choice of sampling rates; estimating uncertainty; exceptional control of sensitive variables. Major assessments: electronic circuits investigations; use of Arduino

Electricity--Data Analysis

Fundamentals: graphing scatter plots; finding best fit lines; calculating slopes; identifying linear or non-linear behavior; scientific notation; unit conversion. Major assessments: quizzes, Salt Water Battery experiment

Advanced: Questioning model assumptions; characterizing non-linear behavior. Major assessments: Electronic Circuits investigations with capacitors

Engineering Design Challenge (Electronics)

Fundamentals: Brainstorming and divergent thinking; labeling and explaining multiple ideas; using simple tools; testing designs; communicating process. Major assessment: Building several working circuits

Advanced: Identifying design variables; doing research on materials; explaining choices in relation to trade offs in finding design solutions. Major assessment: Making circuits using the 555 oscillator IC

Energy and Forces--Models

Fundamentals: Newton's Laws, Fnet = ma; awareness of non-intuitive asects of motion (such as zero velocity with non zero acceleration, motion with zero net force, confusion of 2nd vs 3rd laws, etc.); physics of cars, bikes, rockets, boats; force diagrams; internal combustion engine; electric motors; electric generators

Advanced: torque = r x F; friction = u x Normal Force; torque and equilibrium

Energy and Forces--Lab Techniques

Fundamentals: Video analysis of motion; use springs and force sensors to explore forces due to friction

Advanced: Based on individual projects

Energy and Foces--Data Analysis

Fundamentals: Using Vernier sensors to analyze design projects

Advanced: Based on individual projects

Engineering Design Challenge (Choice)

Fundamentals: Build a toy car, rocket, plane, hovercraft, speakers, and more that meet performance criteria

Advanced: Identify design variables; research on materials; explain choices in relation to trade offs in finding design solutions.


Fundamentals: How is your design challenge connected to the world beyond our classroom and/or beyond science?

Advanced: Depends on project...


Work from these assessed areas can eventually be translated into a grade for this semester course. I would be happy to continue accrediting your developing achievements whenever you show them, but unfortunately our current system demands a "final" grade at the end of the semester. This weakness of our educational system should not discourage you from continued learning.

Achievement of the fundamental level for an assessed area is indicated by a full score of 3, while achievement of the advanced level is indicated by up to 1.5 more. By semester end, an average of these scores is translated into a semester grade (4 = 95, 3 = 85, 2 = 75 such that a final average of 3.6 would equal a 91, for example).

Assignments will first help you to achieve fundamental skills and understandings. When this foundation level is sufficient, you will be encouraged to try advanced work. However, the fundamental levels are the most important. A student who achieves these levels, but does not have sufficient time to begin advanced work, will still be able to get a "B" for the semester.