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Monday, July 17, 2017

Kansas EPSCoR Researchers and Teachers work together to make AMO Physics Curricular Connections

  Kansas State University (KSU) hosted the 2017 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Teacher Workshop, Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences on June 15-16. Twenty seven high school and middle school physics, chemistry and physical science teachers from across Kansas attended the two day workshop. This physics, chemistry and physical science teacher professional development experience was one of the Kansas and Nebraska EPSCoR Track 2 Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures education and outreach initiatives. The goal of this year's workshop was to provide teachers with opportunities to learn modeling and 3 dimensional teaching strategies, understand and incorporate the Kansas Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into their lesson planning, and interact with some of the Kansas EPSCoR Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics scientists.
Dr. Chris Elles, Dr. Kevin Carnes, Dr. Lizette Burks, Earl Legleiter
   The workshop began with a brief welcome and an explanation of how lasers work from University of Kansas (KU) Associate Professor Chris Elles. The welcome was followed by tours of the James R. Macdonald AMO Physics Laboratory led by KSU Research Professor of Physics & Associate Director of Operations Dr. Kevin Carnes, and KSU Research Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Charles W. Fehrenbach. Carnes and Fehrenbach discussed the history of the equipment used in the laboratory as well as how the grant was using lasers to conduct the EPSCoR AMO experiments.
   Next, teachers worked with Dr. Lizette Burks, Kansas State Department of Education, Science Consultant who showed them how to use the NGSS to alter their teaching approach from having students learning about a phenomena to a more student directed figuring out a phenomena approach. During the afternoon session, Earl Legleiter, Science Consultant, demonstrated modeling strategies and provided a hands on lesson illustrating how to encourage students to create models and figure out phenomena. At the end of the day, Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education, Anshultz Professor of Education, and Professor of Physics at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), guided participants in a discussion to process the days activities and prepare for the following day's round table session with the researchers.
Dr. A. T.Le, Dr. Bret Flanders, Dr. Vinod Kumarappan,
Dr. Chris Elles, Dr. Kevin Carnes
   The morning of day two opened with small group meetings with grant researchers Dr. Kevin Carnes (KSU), Dr. Chris Elles (KU), Dr. Bret Flanders (KSU), Dr. A. T. Le (KSU) and Dr. Vinod Kumarappan (KSU).  Each researcher provided a brief explanation of their role in the grant, the experiments they were conducting, and how they used models in their work. Teachers spent the morning visiting with each researcher, asking questions and brainstorming curricular connections to the research. During the afternoon session, Amy Hammett, 2016 workshop participant and high school science teacher at Maize High School in Maize, KS, led a discussion on how to use models in AMO lesson planning and how to make connections between the research, the NGSS, and real world phenomena. The remainder of the afternoon was dedicated to teachers creating AMO lessons that will be shared with teachers across the state through the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Google Classroom platform.
Dr. Paul Adams, Amy Hammett,
and teachers writing AMO lessons
  As for the teachers' impressions of the two day event, one teacher commented, I discovered “World class opportunities are available in our students' back yard and much of what happens at the highest level of science relies a great deal on the foundations of science we teach.” And, as a result of attending the workshop, another teacher added, I now "feel empowered to bring this material into my classroom.”

Education and outreach funding for the physics teacher workshop was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.