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Educational Outreach Nugget

Workshop for science teachers: Magnets and motors

A group of twelve Cambridge, MA, middle and elementary school teachers spent an afternoon at the Center for Materials Science and Engineering (MIT MRSEC) learning firsthand how motors work. Professor Steven Leeb explained the physics principles involved, then guided the teachers through the construction of simple motors. With ceramic magnets, magnet wire, paper clips, thumb tacks, and nine-volt batteries, each teacher built a working motor to take back to the classroom. In the course of working on the motors, Professor Leeb helped the participants to troubleshoot and explain the causes of problems that arose, thus deepening the teachers' content knowledge and enabling them to teach about motors with more confidence.

This workshop was designed by CMSE in direct response to a need expressed by two Cambridge science teachers. They felt that they and their colleagues needed a better understanding of the science involved to be able to effectively teach their students the ìMagnets and Motorsî unit of the stateís learning standards. The Cambridge Schools Science Department endorsed the workshop as an in-service professional development activity and recruited the participants. In the evaluations they wrote for the school department, the teachers commented,

"What I really enjoyed the most was the hands-on activity."
"This was fantastic."
"Use this as a model."

This MRSEC intends to work with other school departments and science teachers to identify different topics for future workshops.

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