Tuesday, December 19, 2017

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: Decking the Halls with #PhysicsHaikus

This one is a little different! A few weeks ago, Perimeter Institute, a reknowned research center in Canada, posted some #PhysicsHaikus on their tweeter feed. I always like when the arts and sciences can be combined, and I took note. I decided I'd get my grade twelve physics students to write a haiku.

Now, students who take physics are not usually fans of English, and especially poetry. They like our formulas and numbers and rules in physics - that's why they take physics. However, I figured if there was ever poetry designed for scientists, it's the haiku. I mean really, it has rules with numbers in it! How perfect is that?

Saying that physics students are not fans of English is not quite right. A good number fit that category, but I have had over the years, a fair number of music/band students who take physics as the only science course they take, and just because they like it. I'm pretty sure there is a great connection between physics and music; I know there is with math and music. We actually have two math teachers on staff who are also music majors.

If you don't remember, here's a haiku on how to write a haiku. The haiku is a Japanese based poem, with specific number of syllables in each line - five syllables, then seven syllables, then five again. They are pretty easy to write.

So I found some glitter tree decorations and stuck them on the wall, making a tree shape. A bow for the top and voila! The big space on the hall outside my classroom was now ready for some haikus.

Our recent topics were electric fields and forces, and the last chapter was planetary motion. The inspiration for many was clearly the ideas we've been studying.

One aspect that was particularly tough for some of my students was just the language. We have a large number of EAL students (English as an Acquired Language) and while they are pretty good at physics, having to create in English was very hard. I was super impressed with the effort they put in to figuring out what a syllable was and then trying to make a haiku that made sense. I have students who have only been in Canada for less than a year who found this task challenging.

Some students are into modern physics, not a topic we cover, but Schrodinger's cat is pretty famous even for people who aren't into physics.
And then one fella took it pretty literal about writing a haiku about physics. He wrote about physics - the high school course. Surprisingly, he is a student who does pretty well, and I don't think he works a lot to stay on top of things, but he summarized the over all feeling of probably a lot of students, lol.

So Happy Haiku
from  outside Room 203!
and the Advent Tour