When high school teacher Tovi Spero introduces his students to physics, he starts with a seemingly ordinary, unintimidating and nonscientific object. Like a bowling ball.
“I tell them to make it move,” Spero says. “Then based on what they see, I ask them to think about the information they can gather. Is there a pattern? Does that pattern suggest a larger question? Before they know it, they’ve done their first physics experiment.”
Spero, a member of the first graduating class of Rutgers University New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences in 2011 always knew he wanted to teach. But over the span of five years in which he completed his bachelor’s degree in physics and received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education his ideas about teaching underwent a transformation.
“I really thought my career was going to be me telling students to take notes while I explain everything to them,” he says. “And that just got flipped on its head.”
Indeed, Spero’s students at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North had no time to sit idle during a recent honors physics class. He had them swinging their backpacks in the air to experience circular motion, or spinning a marble to calculate its probable direction. When he wasn’t engaging these student teams with questions and comments, Spero captivated them by donning a raincoat and threatening to drench himself by whirling a bucket of water over his head – but centripetal force prevailed.
“He relates everything to real life,” says Yash Parakh, a junior at the school. “That’s very helpful because now when I see something I know what’s happening in terms of the physics.”
Another student, Shruthi Santhanakrishnan, says the backpack exercise was particularly instructive – and fun.
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