I didn't study physics in high school. I didn't study physics
in college. I did have physical science in junior high, and I enjoyed
the part of physics that I was introduced to. We dropped eggs off
the roof of the middle school (in protective cases we designed)
and studied the results. That's really all I remember about physical
science class, so I was looking forward to learning alongside my
children using Particular Concepts.
Particular Concepts: Intermediate to College Activities was
written by Elsie Spry in conjunction with William Spry, who has
a Ph.D. in physics. This is not a full physics curriculum. It is
a book of interactive activities designed to help 7th through
12th grade students understand and explore basic physics concepts.
The activities are inquiry-based, intended to foster learning through
This supplemental curriculum includes two spiral-bound books:
the Sandbox Particulate Physics book, and the Construction
Manual. The Sandbox Particulate Physics workbook
includes lessons 7-15, with step-by-step instructions for each
experiment and activity as well as the worksheets needed to record
observations from the activities. The worksheets include charts
and questions to help guide the student's exploration without simply
providing the answers for them. The Construction Manual provides
instructions for building devices that will be needed in some of
the activities, using plastic interlocking blocks.
This intermediate to college-level book is intended to build upon
the elementary-level book, which contained lessons 1-6. I definitely
recommend working through both levels, no matter what age you're
starting at. The first six lessons are the foundation for the remaining
nine lessons. The students will be better prepared to explore the
intermediate lessons and engage in the learning process if they've
already covered the elementary activities.
The activities require particulates, such as sand, rice, or beans,
as well as plastic interlocking building blocks. (The Construction
Manual recommends Duplo® blocks, though there may be
other similar brands that would work.) Some of the other easily
found items needed for the activities include boards, pans, cups,
boxes, rulers, protractors, a scale, scissors, rubber bands, and
measuring utensils. Each activity begins with a list of supplies
needed, so you can look ahead to gather the necessary items. Advance
preparation is required before using the activities.
As a parent attempting to use this book on its own, I found myself
wishing for more information. I could walk my students through
the activities and help them record their observations on the worksheets,
but without more explanation, I knew I wasn't able to fully explain
the concepts to them. I just felt as if I was floundering as I
tried to use this book with my children. If we were using it alongside
a physics curriculum, I would have been better prepared to adequately
discuss the experiments with my children.
Some of the activities are demonstrated on the website, with helpful
videos set to classical music. These videos are intended to be
used with the activity book to encourage more observation from
the students. The bonus is that they allow the parent to see what
the activity should look like if the instructions are a bit confusing.
Overall, I like the Particular Concepts activities and
the discovery-based learning model. My children enjoy hands-on
experiments, and these activities are wonderful learning tools.
However, I feel that it is best used alongside another curriculum--unless
the parent is already familiar with, and comfortable explaining,
the physics concepts being explored.