Hello readers, and Happy New Year!
I thought it would only be appropriate to kick the new year off to a good start by showcasing the work of someone I greatly respect and admire. Brian Jones is a professor at Colorado State University (CSU) who teaches physics. I was privileged enough to take two of his classes. As you’ll hear from the interview below, Brian is the type of teacher focusing on students who put-off by physics, either by thinking it’s too math-y or too scary. Brian makes his classes interactive, bringing in real-life examples of different physics ideas. I remember one day he brought in a giant Tesla coil, then had all of us stand around the room to observe the effects of the coil. To say I was absolutely mesmerized would be an understatement.
As much as I’d love to continue bragging on Brian for the rest of this post, I instead want to talk about Brian’s traveling science exhibition called Little Shop of Physics (LSOP). Brian inherited this project when he first began teaching at CSU and has transformed it into a world-traveling exhibition. You can find LSOP’s website here. LSOP gives a series of hands-on activities for students of all ages to try, to learn more about physics specifically, but also about science in general. Brian has found great success with this project, as students have asked their own teachers to teach science in a similar way to Brian’s exhibition. Brian’s goal with LSOP is not only to encourage the curiosity of young minds, but also the curiosity of teachers’ as well. Brian shows teachers how to teach science in more interactive ways, as well as using low-budget materials.
In our interview, Brian emphasized the importance of starting to nurture curiosity at a young age. From fourth to sixth grade is when the student really solidifies their views on science. Having an environment that encourages creativity and curiosity in young people will result in a more positive outlook toward the sciences. But, Brian added, this also needs to happen in the teachers as well. If teachers show timidity or confusion in teaching the sciences, their students will reflect these emotions. LSOP helps both students and teachers to see science in a more positive light, and to understand that physics does not have to be scary.
Brian also told me about his world travels with LSOP, from going to inner-city Denver to Ethiopia and Namibia. One of Brian’s goals with LSOP was to show teachers how to teach interactive science on a budget, especially for lower-income schools. From these efforts, Brian was invited to teach in Africa, showing how to teach science there. Brian, however, didn’t just teach science but wanted to understand how other cultures taught science as well, and instead made LSOP more of an exchange program. He discusses in the interview the importance of sharing knowledge systems with other cultures.
With COVID-19, things have been difficult for LSOP, but Brian has been able to continue the learning processes via zoom and other methods. He discusses it more in the interview below. I highly recommend listening to Brian’s interview, as it gives wisdom for all of us to better understand not only physics but ourselves in general.