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Minutes of TheoryNet meeting at Roxbury Latin

Hi TheoryNet participants,

  Here are some minutes from our meeting at Roxbury Latin this morning.

  Darien Wood was working at Fermilab, but he and I talked by phone. He 
mentioned that processing the procurement request for the video projectors 
for high school classrooms is proceeding, though slower than originally 
anticipated. He will place an order for cloud chamber apparatus next week. 
He sent his regards to those present. Scott Carlson (Gloucester HIgh 
School), Ken Olum (Tufts), and Shiraz Minwalla (Harvard) could not attend.
  Jesus Hernandez (Lawrence H.S.), Mike Fetsko( Braintree H.S.), Ken 
Rideout (Swampscott H.S.), Rick Dower (Roxbury Latin School), Ami Hanany 
(MIT), Albion Lawrence (Brandeis), and Tomasz Taylor (Northeastern) 
participated in the discussion.

    DIscussion of theorist visits:
  Jesus described Shiraz's visits to his classes at Lawrence H.S. with 
great enthusiasm. Shiraz arrived for classes that occurred at the end of 
the school day and talked for an hour in class, then stayed for another 
hour answering questions after class. During his second visit he talked to 
the the astronomy class about quantum mechanics and its relation to 
structure of stars and structure of the universe. Students were very 
intrigued by his presence and his insights. Another two or three visits 
are planned.

  Mike gave Ken Olum a copy of his syllabus and text book for the courses 
two of the courses he teaches. After the initial visit to observe the 
classroom, Ken stepped in to teach a section of the Accelerated Physics 
and a section of AP Physics. He did a great job of connecting a specific 
topic related to  the curriculum to more exotic features of physics 
theory. Students were fascinated by the connections and by the exotic 
material. Ken will return in April. Mike mentioned the students' 
fascination with seeing someone other than their own teacher involved with 
using physics to understand the world.

  Ami's first visit to Ken Rideout's AP class occurred yesterday. He gave 
a talk in that class about ideas in quantum mechanics. In previous visit 
to other classes Ami held a two-hour question and answer session with a 
mixed (junior-senior) group of students. He often asked them questions to 
gauge their level of background and understanding before continuing with 
his responses to questions. Ken said that his students got a sense of the 
dymanic development of ideas in physics - a struggle to understand nature, 
not just putting numbers in textbook formulas. Ami said that students 
wanted to see him write an exotic equation on the board. He obliged with 
the Markov equation and led tham through some of its interpretation. Ami 
mentioned the problem of following the trail of one student's questions 
and leaving many other students in the dust.

  Rick said that Tomasz visited to observe his clases in January and 
returned yesterday to talk to three 40-minute classes and answer some 
questions they had asked. (Rick had sent Tomasz a list of questions from 
his 12th graders in Physics 2 and a list of questions from his 10th 
graders in Pysics.)  The questions ranged from "Will the Sun explode?" to 
"What makes glue sticky?" to "Is there any conflict between relativity and 
quantum mechanics?" During the visit Tomasz told the students a bit about 
his background and education in Poland. Then he tackled the questions and 
responded to follow-up questions from students during the conversation. 
Rick and Tomasz agreed that a narrower focus and a bit more structure 
would be worth trying next time.

  Albion made two visits to Scott's classes in Gloucester. The first was 
for observation, and the second was to talk to classes. During one of the 
one-hour classes he talked about the structure of matter and the utility 
of thinking i nextra dimensions among other topics. In the other one-hour 
class he talked about gravitational lenses, the expanding universe, and 
cosmology. There was comparitively little student interaction during the 

  After these presentations of our experiences, we had a general 
discussion of lessons learned and approaches to be taken during future 
visits. All agreed that this had been a useful session. It offered a 
variety of models for student-theorist-teacher interaction and inspired 
ideas for variations to be used in future visits.

    Future meetings:
  We discussed possible dates for our summer workshop. Since high schools 
hold classes until the end of June and the annual string theory conference 
occurs at the beginning of July, we looked for possible dates in August. 
We thought a 3-day workshop on Thursday-Saturday August 26-28 would 
accomodate most of our schedules. Then we could plan on additional 
Saturday meetings one in late fall 2004 and one in late winter or early 
spring 2005 to complete the five days alloted to workshop time.

If any participant finds any errors in my reporting, please note them in a 
theorynet e-mail. Also it would be useful to post reflections about each 
visit shortly after it occurs while impressions are still fresh.

Let's build on our success during the spring.