Summer Institute

for Physics Teachers

by Paul Doherty


Welcome to the on-line companion to the Exploratorium Summer Institute for High School Physics teachers.

Each Institute consist of a series of hands-on workshops taught at Exploratorium Exhibits and in classrooms using inexpensive versions of Exploratorium exhibits.

Year 2004 was thetwenty-first year of Physics Summer Institutes.

Each day begins with pastry, fruit and coffee.

While we feed our bodies, we feed our minds too.
We discuss questions of life, the universe and everything.
We look for questions that students ask and for strategies to answer them.

After we're fed, we head out to the floor of the Exploratorium to explore scientific phenomena at museum exhibits.

teachers explore the sound column
Here teachers listen to sounds in The Sound Column

After some time exploring exhibits, we return to the classroom to use inexpensive versions of Exploratorium exhibits known as, "Snacks" to explore the phenomena of science. In my classes I use facilitated exploration to guide the teachers to a deeper understanding of science. By modeling this approach I hope the teachers will use it in their classes.

Teachers explore electric charge using Scotch Magic Tape

Teachers use Scotch Magic Tape to explore electric charge.

After the classroom explorations, the teachers are turned loose to learn on their own.
They go to the Exploratorium Learning Studio where information professionals help them to find resources for science teaching.
They go to the Teacher Machine shop where they build their own classroom versions of Exploratorium exhibits.
They prepare lessons which they present to their colleague teachers every Friday during the Summer Institute.
And, they talk with each other and with the Exploratorium Staff, sharing their teaching experiences.

The Web Pages

The following web pages contain a sample of the material I use in the Physics Summer Institute. It has been posted quickly to provide a resource for teachers. I am always adding images, rewriting, and reorganizing the material to make it easier to use.

This material is in draft form!

As you do these explorations, write me with your comments and questions. pauld@exploratorium.edu

Now, grab some food and a beverage then join me exploring nature with the activities and explorations from the Summer Institute.


  1. What is Science? Perception
  2. The Eye
  3. Eye and Brain
  4. What is Light? A historical approach with experiments.
  5. More Light,
  6. Color
  7. Images
  8. Interference, Polarization
  9. Spectra and Atoms
  10. Waves
  11. Sound
  12. The Ear
  13. Music
  14. Electrostatics
  15. Electric currents
  16. Magnetism
  17. Electromagnetism
  18. Meters and Amplifiers
  19. Radio
  20. Heat and Temperature
  21. Relativity (Optional)
  22. Particle Physics

In our workshops we provide many simple materials, these are stored in rolling carts.

Here are the contents of our carts: TI Carts

Paul's Homepage 

Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty


22 May 2000