By Dr Amrita Vohra
Have you ever wondered what causes lightning, why magnets stick to the fridge or how lenses form images? Well, all of this and more can be answered by physics. Many people associate physics with eminent folks like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking. But physics isn’t just a bunch of complex equations scribbled on a blackboard or bizarre experiments performed in laboratories, it’s all around you. A child’s natural curiosity can make them pretty terrific scientists.
A teacher’s worst nightmare is answering the dreaded question, “Why are we learning all this? What is the use?” from their students. The answer is evinced in the study of physics through innovative experiments that reproduce real world phenomena. The curriculum should make attempts to make the study of physics exciting and more relevant. While learning the physics behind different tools, our brains are engaged in casual reasoning. By the time students fully understand a concept, they’re using the frontal cortex, which is the brain’s executive network, where complex thinking happens.
For kids, physical activities and toys are naturally the most fascinating. As they get immersed in play and start to get a feel of how it works, they learn the tricks to gain amusement from the task. What most of us don’t realise is that they are actually learning and comprehending physical laws while playing. Playground activities like Slide Friction, See-Saw Balance and Curve Balls attribute physics principles like friction, gravity, rotational pull and centrifugal forces. Rather than just reading about these ideas, kids learn first-hand about the basic principles of physics during outdoor games. Cycling is also considered one of the major ways of developing several physics principles of motion, forces, balance and velocity ratios. Swings, on the other hand, help them realise angular momentum; idea of masses in circular motion. All these activities and more, help students relate physical balance of the body to its rotation.
For effective Physics education to occur, we must ensure that students are actively involved and process the knowledge by making sense of concepts on their own. The information is not merely transferred from the teacher to the student. Diversified teaching and learning techniques of Physics are incorporated to yield students who really want to learn the subject. Physics teachers can thus tap into the best of brain-compatible learning and applications, to provide new and innovative ways to reach students.
Studies conducted by various agencies have confirmed that solving Physics problems boosts the brain, making it more active. When a student is solving a problem, one of the key areas of the brain, the ‘dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex’ (an area in the prefrontal cortex of the brain that generates mental stimulation) becomes active. This results in change in brain activities which not only help it come up with solutions but also with episodic memory and self-referential thoughts. Therefore, by solving physics problems, the brain gets activated. This, in turn, leads to imaginative results. According to studies, the brain networks are triggered while solving math problems and reading, but mental modelling integrates itself to physics.
Students learn more effectively in active-engagement environments in which social interaction takes place. It is so because Physics can be learned by seeing, hearing, reading, writing and talking. The human brain was initially used for basic survival tasks, such as staying safe and hunting and gathering. Yet, 200,000 years later, the same human brain is able to learn abstract concepts, like momentum, energy and gravity, which have only been formally defined in the last few centuries. Knowing what the brain is doing when it’s learning physics concepts is a powerful tool. It lets instructors tailor their curricula to what they’re trying to accomplish.
(The writer is Principal, Global Indian International School, Chinchwad.)