Note to Editors: Little Shop director Brian Jones is available for interviews Dec. 31 – Jan. 3 and can demonstrate the computer technology and instruction that will be provided to Saint John’s College.
Leaders of Colorado State University’s renowned Little Shop of Physics educational outreach program are traveling to Belize Jan. 5-9 loaded with computers, software, instruction manuals and related equipment to set up a science lab at Saint John’s College and teach the school’s faculty modern instruction methods. The Little Shop staff will also be leading a variety of college science classes and conducting outreach educational programs at area K-12 schools.
January’s trip will be the second year in a row to Belize for Little Shop director Brain Jones and his staff. Last year, the Colorado State group focused primarily on presenting Little Shop of Physics outreach programs at grade and middle schools. This year, in addition to these educational presentations, the Little Shop team is setting up a modern science computer learning lab at an area college, teaching faculty how to use the computers and associated tools in teaching, and additionally helping instructors improve the way they teach physics, biology and chemistry science classes and labs.
"One of our main goals is to help Saint John’s College update their instruction methods and improve the way they teach science," said Jones. "We are showing faculty in Belize how to incorporate technology and other tools into their classrooms to make learning more hands-on, exploratory and interactive for students, leading to better educators and increased understanding among students."
The eight PowerMac computers and related equipment provided by Colorado State, recently replaced at the university, were originally purchased through student technology fees. Student leadership agreed to donate the equipment to Saint John’s College which currently has no laboratory computers for their students.
The computers and software are complete with 10 years of accumulated teaching tools and lessons provided by Colorado State. All computers are equipped with digital video cameras, simulator software packages and sonic rangers, devices that send and receive pulses of sound waves that are read into the computers and allow real-time experiments relating to motion concepts. The computer equipment provides students opportunities to experience physics and provides an easily understandable link between mathematical representations and visual representations of science concepts.
"Computers can be used very effectively for teaching science," said Jones. "Instead of just learning concepts and equations out of a book, students can utilize technology to actually experience physics concepts and then see the results displayed graphically on a screen. The interactive technology provides students a conceptual understanding of scientific concepts and helps them to understand these concepts faster."
As part of Little Shop’s outreach to area grade schools, the Colorado State team is taking a trunk full of physics-related toys to give to the children. The toys are designed both to be fun and to spark an interest in science among the children. Segments of the outreach presentations will also be filmed for Little Shop’s Everyday Science television program that is shown on Poudre School District Channel 10 in Fort Collins and throughout the state on Rocky Mountain PBS.
The Little Shop of Physics is a traveling, hands-on science program based in the physics department at Colorado State. Each year, Jones and a group of undergraduate physics students take the Little Shop educational outreach program to more than 50 schools and 15,000 children throughout Colorado and neighboring states with the goal of getting young people interested in, and excited about, science. In addition to the traveling program, the Little Shop of Physics presents training workshops to teachers all across the nation and occasionally overseas.
All of the experiments are constructed by using common objects to illustrate scientific principles in engaging and often surprising ways. The primary sources of the scientific equipment are garage sales, hardware stores and discount outlets.
"People too often think that science is hard and something only researchers can do in special labs," said Jones. "Our goal is to show children and their families that science is fun, that anyone can do it and that you don’t need expensive equipment to get great results. Most of the experiments that will be presented in Belize will be created from inexpensive equipment found at second-hand stores or garage sales in the area."
For more information about the Little Shop of Physics, including a sampling of online experiments and photos from recent school visits, go on the Web to http://littleshop.physics.colostate.edu.