Early in the morning on Saturdays this past winter, area students and teachers came to JMU to explore cutting-edge research topics in physics and astronomy. Professors took turns discussing their own specialties and favorite topics including astronomy, Albert Einstein and the Big Bang Theory.
JMU’s Physics and Astronomy Department, in collaboration with the Office of Outreach and Engagement, hosted the second annual “Saturday Morning Physics” series to build on to the knowledge of students and teachers alike.
Saturday, January 28th marked the first session of the spring semester program. Almost 70 participants gathered in Miller Hall to listen to the opening lecture.
With enthusiasm for all things science, Dr. Adriana Banu, an Assistant Professor at JMU, kicked off the program discussing radioactivity and the atomic nucleus. Students laughed and followed along as Dr. Banu went through the history of science and the basics of the atom. There were familiar faces in the crowd of students, a few who had attended last year, as well as some new students and teachers that came ready to experience college level physics.
“I came by myself last year, this year I brought the students,” said Dottie Edwards, a teacher at Strasburg High School who brought five students with her. “It wasn’t hard to get students here. They jumped right in.”
Local teachers and students are utilizing the program to not only learn new information, but to expand on what they already know. “We get a deeper understanding of what we learned in class,” said Spotswood High School senior Ashley Lenhart.
During the program, the audience is encouraged to participate in interactive lessons. One Saturday, students helped to create a “human computer” using the binary code and building blocks. At the end of every session, interactive quizzes were given using handheld clickers that have become the norm in JMU’s science classes.
Students were asked a number of questions that complement the lesson they learned that day. A prize was given to the students that had the highest scores on the quizzes at the end of the entire program.
As an added bonus, participants receive certificates of attendance, students can receive college credits, and teachers can earn continuing education units.
“Last year’s program turned out to be a huge success that exceeded everybody's expectations. This year, we’ve experienced the same thing,” said Dr. Banu.