April 1, 2007 A Colorado State University professor has discovered how to get teens excited about science. Jones' Little Shop of Physics consists of 200 experiments using common household products that spin, glow, magnetize and mesmerize, to explain everything from sound waves to riding waves. He's even had students in university classes who say they remember what they learned in his Little Shop of Physics.
Using combs, cones, smoke and mirrors -- combined with scientific concepts, more than 15,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students a year learn physics can be fun when they visit Brian Jones' "Little Shop of Physics." Brian Jones, a Colorado State University professor, has discovered how to get teens excited about science. He tells DBIS, "Half of our message is what science is. We're teaching people what physics is about. But the other half, and this is just as important, is that science is really cool."
Jones' Little Shop of Physics consists of 200 experiments using common household products that spin, glow, magnetize and mesmerize, to explain everything from sound waves to riding waves.
"We have the, the Jupiter Jar here, and this is a light fixture we got at the lighting store, and a lazy Susan we got at the hardware store," Jones says.
The kids are wowed while learning. For example, spinning fog from a trashcan demonstrates a tornado spinning faster as it travels farther.
"It's pretty cool," says 13-year-old Cori Terrakra. "I have never seen anything like this." Jones started his traveling Little Shop of Physics 16 years ago. "It's a great thing to know that you can come in for a day and expose people to something and create an understanding that they'll still have 10 years down the road. It's a remarkable thing."
He says he loves it when "the light goes on" in an eighth-grader and the lessons stick like a magnet. He's even had students in university classes who say they remember what they learned in his Little Shop of Physics.
The American Association of Physics Teachers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
BACKGROUND: Brian Jones, a physics professor at Colorado State University (CSU), runs The Little Shop of Physics, an interactive, touring show of hands-on physics demonstrations that travels all over the United States. Each year, it visits approximately 40 different schools, presenting programs to about 15,000 students from kindergarten to the 12th grade. It also organized teacher workshops, and produces a local cable TV show.
HANDS-ON SCIENCE: The Little Shop of Physics doesn't show students science, it helps them to do the science themselves: observing, experimenting and questioning. The students learn that science is both fun, and something they can actually do. Since its first year of existence, the show has grown to a rotating collection of more than 75 hands-on science experiments, designed by undergraduate physics students at CSU.
Each experiment uses common everyday objects, from old black-and-white television sets, to ketchup packets from McDonalds, common digital clocks, cans of root beer, children's toys, and even the family cat. For instance, connecting a camera flash to a fluorescent light bulb means it can be triggered from a distance by a static charge. The students can set up the experiment to see for themselves, then discuss why this happens.
TRY THIS AT HOME: Here's an easy and fun experiment to try at home: the Root Beer Float. You'll need one can of regular root beer, one can of diet root beer, and a large container of water. (A deep sink or a bathtub works well.) Take one can in each hand. They probably feel about the same in size and weight. But when you set both the cans into the large container of water, one of them sinks while the other floats.
WHY THIS HAPPENS: The reason is that different materials have different densities. Things float if an objectýs density is less than that of water, while an object will sink if its density if more than the water. The reason the can of regular root beer sinks while the diet root beer floats, is that sugar has a higher density than the sugar substitute used in diet soft drinks.