Modeling Instruction Lesson – Constant Accelerated Motion Introduction

This lesson is designed to introduce students to the concepts behind constant accelerated motion.  Accelerated motion is something that every student has experienced but often students have a difficult time explaining it conceptually.  This demonstration is focus on using student observations to build a conceptual understanding of what is happening when they observe a cart that is speeding up.  This lesson uses motion detectors and graphing software to show students what the motion looks like and the differences that this motion has compared to constant velocity.  Below you can find a lesson plan detailing how to introduce this topic or you can go to Kelly O’Shea’s Modeling Instruction blog to see how she introduces it.


Introducing CAM Demonstration




Final Reflection

Science has always been a subject that I assumed was taught one way, by memorizing and applying formulas and verifying previously discovered scientific laws in order to engage in the scientific process.  In my time both in the classroom and in the Curry school, I have come to realize that my previous belief could not be further from the truth.  Effective science education should involve students using their collected body of knowledge to construct explanations to observed phenomena and develop solutions to given problems.  Inquiry based learning provides far better pathways for students to develop their scientific understanding while also fostering growth in skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and argumentation.  My time in the classroom has made it very clear that students learn best when they can use their creative and knowledge to create a unique product.

In this portfolio, I have strived to include a variety of inductive teaching methods that will benefit student engagement and encourage lasting learning.  Lessons utilizing problem based learning and engineering design will push my students to look beyond the formula and begin asking critical questions that will allow them to reach new levels in their learning.  By using these resources, I hope to increase student motivation by making them invest in their learning by providing a relatable and relevant problem to solve.  Additionally, the lessons I have created for this portfolio have allowed me to observe the benefits of teaching students the process along with the knowledge.  This portfolio has also demonstrated to me the importance of keeping an archive of inquiry materials.  Inquiry is something that can scare away science teachers due to it being an unfamiliar style.  If I keep a detailed portfolio, I can work to change that in my own school and improve the overall scientific education across different content areas.

My time at the Curry School has taught me a great deal about effective science teaching.  Science teachers have to be more than just instructors; they have to be collaborators, consultants, designers, engineers, and guides.  Science has to be experienced by students through engineering projects or case studies so that they can develop their own learning experiences and experience more lasting learning.  Despite my time here, I know that there is much that I still do not know about teaching.  In order to ensure that I do not become stagnant in my teaching style, I will ensure to stay in constant communication with my cohort members in order to discuss and refine new ideas in the profession.  That is what is truly exciting about science, the fact that it is always changing and that new ideas are always sprouting.  By utilizing inductive teaching methods, I hope I will be able to help these new ideas grow into the next great discoveries of tomorrow.

Science Resources

Safety in the Labs

NSTA Science Safety Resource Guide

Flinn Scientific General Lab Safety Checklist

Inquiry Science Teaching

PBS Learning

The Physics Teacher

Practical Physics

Modeling Instruction

Model Building by Kelly O’Shea

Online Physics Labs, Games, and Simulations

Physics Aviary


University of Virginia Physics Demos

Physics Lessons Demos

University of Pittsburgh Demos

Case-Based Learning

National Center for Case Based Teaching

Problem-Based Learning

PBL Tips and Ideas


University of Delaware PBL Archives

Engineering Design

Teach Engineering

NSF Classroom Resources

The Teaching Channel

Engineering Design

Engineering Design is a iterative process where students are presented with a design challenge that they systematically solve by creating and refining a prototype until it meets the design requirements.  In this section you will find a engineering design teacher’s guide that I have created as well as an example engineering unit plan on applied forces.  Below I have included an engineering design project I completed that was designed to build a better you using the engineering design process.

Engineering Design Example – Building a Better You

Inquiry Lessons

Within this section you will find multiple lessons that utilize inquiry learning.  These lessons are designed for middle and high school physics and physical science.  You will find lessons in guided inquiry, POE, and 5E covering topics such as conservation of energy and air resistance.

Inquiry Based Lesson – Building Rollercoasters


The main topic this lesson seeks to explore is conservation of energy by building tube roller coasters.  For many students, the relationships behind the conservation of energy can be difficult to visualize.  This inquiry based lesson will push students to ask questions of different design choices in order to address the scenario given to them.  By collaborating with each other and asking me questions, students are able to develop successful designs without direct guidance from me.  By the end of this lesson, students will be to describe the relationships behind the conservation of energy, define kinetic and potential energy, and explain the concepts behind certain roller coaster design features..  This is a full inquiry lesson because it displays all the features of inquiry with the following variations: questions-4, evidence-2, analysis-2, explain-2, connection-2, and communication-3. In summary, the lesson is more self-directed and student-centered and can be defined as a guided inquiry lesson.

For modifications, standards, technology integration, learning objectives, and assessment, see the lesson plan below.

Lesson Resources

Inquiry Based Lesson – Rollercoaster – This inquiry lesson plan includes the related standards, learning goals, modifications, assessment plans, and lesson procedure as well as the student handout for the activity.


The inquiry based learning method is very conducive to scientific inquiry.  Students are given a problem or scenario and tasked with developing a solution through methods of inquiry and critical thinking.  Inquiry based learning also increases student engagement as students feel that the knowledge they are gaining is relevant to the problem they have been tasked to solve.  This particular topic is a good fit with the inquiry model because it allows students to investigate the energy relationships on their own and develop more meaningful learning while also utilizing creativity in their designs.  Two potential issues in the inquiry model are students only doing the activity instead of engaging in inquiry and getting students to buy in to an unfamiliar instructional style.  I will address the first issue by making sure to constant monitor the room and ask students who appear to be off task guiding questions in order to refocus them on inquiry.  As for the buy in, I will discuss with students the benefits of inquiry based learning as well as give them a preview of things to come in order to hook them.

Inductive Lessons

Under this section, you will find a variety of inductive lesson and unit plans that are design to maximize inquiry and promote meaningful student engagement.  Lesson plans include Case-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Predict Observe Explain, and the 5E model.

Engineering Design Unit – Building Bridges


The topic for this engineering design unit is applied forces by building bridges.  This unit will have students utilize the engineering design process in order to design and build bridges while developing their body of knowledge related to forces.  This lesson covers the following standards.

Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs):

PH.3 The student will investigate and demonstrate an understanding of the nature of science, scientific reasoning, and logic. Key concepts include

  1. analysis of scientific sources to develop and refine research hypotheses;

PH.4 The student will investigate and understand how applications of physics affect the world. Key concepts include a) examples from the real world; and

  1. exploration of the roles and contributions of science and technology.

PH.5 The student will investigate and understand the interrelationships among mass, distance, force, and time through mathematical and experimental processes. Key concepts include

  1. Newton’s laws of motion;
  2. gravitation;
  3. work, power, and energy.

Next Generation Science Standards:

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

  • A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it. (secondary to MS-PS1-6)

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

  • Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process—that is, some of the characteristics may be incorporated into the new design. (secondary to MS-PS1-6)

The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution. (secondary to MS-PS1-6)

This lesson does an excellent job working with both the SOL and NGSS.  The engineering design process focuses on the next generation standards of developing possible solutions and optimizing solutions and allows the students to fulfill these requirements within the engineering process.  Additionally, the real world design challenge and general scientific processes skills address SOLs PH.3 and PH.4.  Finally, the content of the unit does an excellent job addressing the forces concepts stated in PH.5 as students will actively utilize and develop this content knowledge in order to successfully develop their designs.

Unit Resources

EDIS Unit Plan – Building Bridges – This unit plan details an applied forces unit that involves students being presented with a design challenge and tasked with developing a solution for it.  This unit contains a pacing guide, standards, learning objectives, resources, and rubrics for individual and group assessment.


Engineering Design is a fantastic method for developing collaborative, analytical, and critical thinking skills in students.  It allows students to apply their skills in a hands on and realistic way compared to the more traditional manners of solving word problems and calculating values.  Engineering design provides students with a method for tackling a variety of problems in a consistent and thorough manner.  Building bridges is an excellent topic for engineering design as they can be made cheaply, are very familiar to students, and can be tested easily to allow for several iterations of the design process to occur.  Two issues that can arise in engineering design is ensuring students engage in enough iterations and that students understand what is expected of them.  I will address this by including iteration requirements to ensure that groups do not simply stop after one cycle.  Additionally, I will have them create a teacher guide similar to the one that can be seen on this website in order to help them learn what is expected for each step.