The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 3, 2002


New CCHS optics lab helps students discover concepts

This year Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) students studying physics are able to understand and apply certain rules of the science with new precise measurement tools thanks to a grant funded by the Concord Educational Fund. The grant, in the amount of $10,150, was given to the science department to buy equipment used in optics labs, which study the reflection and refraction of light, focal points of objects and other optical studies in physics.

Before this grant, teachers at CCHS were forced to use low quality equipment that frequently gave inaccurate data and poor results. The grant provided for the purchase of nine separate optics stations to be used to test and prove concepts in physics classes. Each station consists of a 'bench' which holds the components together securely, as well as lenses and mirrors. With the new equipment, physics teachers at the high school can choose from 55 different experiments to clarify topics studied in class or to demonstrate how a concept works.

Kevin Pennucci, physics teacher and project leader, says that the new equipment is a significant upgrade from what the students were using last year. "Without the new equipment," he says, "we used to use meter sticks, candles, and pieces of paper, but now we can do that same lab that we did with the simple materials, as well as ten times more labs in half the time, and get far better results."

However, the biggest difference is not the variety of experiments but the accuracy of them. In previous years the students and teachers would not be able to rely on the data they collected from the labs. Because the new equipment is so precise, now students can actually understand the concepts better because the station lets them see, hands-on, how the concepts they study in class relate to the real world.

Kristy Beauvais, another physics teacher who plans to use the equipment with her students, points out that one of the advantages of the new devices is their wide variety of uses for all levels of classes. Beauvais says that the labs she can perform with the students make physics more interesting because the labs relate to real life scenarios. For example, one lab shows how contact lenses work; another explains why rainbows appear. "The experiments are hands-on," Beauvais explains. "We can ask students to figure out actual scientific concepts instead of just telling them what they are." Beauvais adds, "Instead of a teacher giving the students information, they can go out and find that information themselves with accurate results."

Beauvais says one of the best parts about the grant was that it enabled the school to buy nine different stations so that the students can work in smaller groups and each student can get even more hands-on experience.

Students that used the equipment were pleased not only with the results but also their reproducibility. Paul Bertoli, a senior at CCHS who used the equipment this year in physics, says that he was impressed by the experiment. "It worked really well," says Bertoli. "We got the same results after we did the experiment again, so it was nice to see that it was able to work more than once." Bertoli adds that the new equipment makes it much easier to understand the material when these experiments work correctly. "You learn the concepts much better when the experiment actually works, and these really did work."

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito