Animated Page Title

About the Course


BHS -> Mr. Stanbrough -> this page

"Most people who haven't been trained in physics probably think of what physicists do as a question of incredibly complicated calculations, but that's not really the essence of it. The essence of it is that physics is about concepts, wanting to understand the concepts, the principles by which the world works." - Edward Witten (1951 - )

Physics 1 at BHS - An Overview

I see Physics students for 4 - 4.5 week cycles of 85 minute periods. I try, with limited success, to divide the course as follows:


General Topics

Text Chapters


(Cycles 1 & 2)

Science & Scientific Method


Thermodynamics & Properties of Matter





(Cycles 3 & 4)

Wave Motion, Sound & Light

Electricity & Magnetism

Atomic & Nuclear Physics




I try to stress Scientific Method and how science works (and sometimes doesn't work) in this course. Not many physics students will become professional scientists, let alone physicists, but it is vitally important that, as citizens, they have a reasonably sophisticated idea of how science works.

Mechanics is the soul of physics. We begin with kinematics in one- and two-dimensions (projectiles), proceed through Newton's Laws of motion, momentum, energy, circular and rotational motion, gravitation, and end with special relativity.

We do not stress thermodynamics and properties of matter (chapters 17-24 in the text) in this course, although it is fascinating science. Most students learn a great deal of thermodynamics in their chemistry courses.

Understanding wave motion, including reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference, is vital to understanding the nature of sound and light. Students also investigate ray optics and the basic operation of plane and curved mirrors, and concave and convex lenses.

A basic understanding of electricity & magnetism is vitally important in a technological society. We first study electrostatics, electric fields, and the idea of potential. We move on to study current electricity and basic electric circuits. We finish up with a study of magnetism and electromagnetic induction.

In modern (atomic and nuclear) physics, we study the basic quantum nature of the atom, the nature of radioactivity, and nuclear fission and fusion.

Text and Philosophy

We use the text:

Hewitt, Paul G., Conceptual Physics, The High School Physics Program, copyright 2006 Pearson Prentice Hall. I find this to be an excellent, readable text for a first course in Physics - possibly the best introductory physics textbook ever written.

Other supplementary material I use includes:

Hewitt, Paul G., Conceptual Physics Teaching Guide, Third Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall. I find this guide a valuable resource for teaching ideas and pointers. The "Terms and Objectives" handouts that I distribute to students are expanded versions of the Objectives and Possible Misconceptions to Correct sections in this book. (The terms are an expanded version of the Terms section at the end of the text chapter.)

Robinson, Paul, Conceptual Physics Laboratory Manual, Teacher's Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall. I find this Laboratory Manual to be a valuable resource, although I no longer use it directly in class. I like the concept of many of the labs, but I just don't like the "fill in the blanks" format. I have expanded and revised many of the labs for my classes.

Hewitt, Paul G. and Helen Yan, Conceptual Physics Next-Time Questions, Third Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall. I make transparencies and use these questions frequently to stimulate problem-solving and group discussions.

The adoption of the Indiana Academic Standards 2000 for Physics I by the state of Indiana is forcing our course to move away from an in-depth conceptual approach to physics toward a more-traditional equation-based survey course. We will be supplementing the text with many numerical exercises and problems this year in order to align our course with the state standards.

Physics Grades:

Your Physics grade will be calculated based on assignments, labs, quizzes, tests, and a final exam, as follows:


There will be frequent (daily) written assignments. All assignments will be collected and scored on a 5-point scale as follows:


Write-ups will be required for lab activities and experiments. Point values range from 2 points for a simple activity to 50 points (or more) for a detailed experiment. Write-ups for activities and experiments are generally graded in detail.


Very frequent quizzes lasting 5 to 10 minutes will be given. These quizzes will consist of 1-5 questions, often multiple-choice in nature. Quizzes will count from 2-20 points. The goal is to have at least as many quiz points as test points in any given chapter.


There will be tests at appropriate times in the cycle (usually 2-3 tests per cycle). Each test will count 35-100 points or more, depending on the amount and difficulty of the material. Note: Tests and quizzes are given a scale factor of "2" in the grade book, which means that a 5-point quiz counts twice as much toward your grade as a 5-point assignment.


Your notebook will be checked by me as part of your grade. Each notebook check counts as an assignment grade. As a practical matter, a well-organized and complete notebook will be essential to your success in Physics. Most students find their Physics notebook to be a useful reference in future college courses. Your notebook should contain all class notes, journal entries, examples, handouts, assignments, labs, and tests, and test analyses.

Cycle Grade Calculation:

To calculate your cycle percentage grade, divide your total points by the total possible points.

Grades are posted (by student number) and updated as often as possible. You should check this posting frequently to be sure that your grade is correct. You may obtain a written progress report at any time (within reason) - just ask.

The grade that appears on your report card will not be lower than the percent calculated as described above. Percentages may be adjusted upward ("curved"), however, at the discretion of the instructor (that's me). This adjustment will affect the grades of the entire class equally.

Final Exam and Semester Grade:

There will be a final exam counting 10% of the semester grade. Each cycle grade will count 45% of the semester grade.


Make Up Work:

Students are responsible to make up all work missed due to field trips, illness, etc. within a reasonable time. Please consult your BHS Student handbook.

Extra Credit:

Physics grades will be awarded based on the student's demonstrated achievement in physics. Students who want to do well in Physics need to keep up with the work, ask questions, and take advantage of the help available. Students are encouraged to work on a project of interest to them, either in addition to or instead of the regular class work. On the other hand (Sorry, I just can't find a nice way to say this...), students who sit in class like big dead lumps for four weeks and then suddenly become concerned about their grade the day before the end of the cycle will not be able to turn in meaningless "extra credit" whose only purpose is to artificially "pump up" the grade they have earned.

Machine-Scored Answer Sheets:

Rationale: The multiple-choice section of the SAT test is scored by machine - no human ever looks at it. So are AP tests, and many other important tests that you have taken and will take in the future. On these tests, any mismarked answers, incomplete erasures, stray marks, etc. are counted wrong - just as wrong as an incorrect answer. Therefore, it would be a good idea to learn to mark machine-scored answer sheets carefully.

Policy: If the ScantronTM machine says an answer is wrong - it's wrong. The only exception is if the machine is clearly out of order (which seldom happens).

Unlike the AP Test or SAT, however, if you "mess up" your answer sheet, you can have another one - just ask.

Classroom Computers:

The classroom computers are to be used for school-related curricular work only. They are not to be used for web surfing, email, or games during classroom hours. At no time are they to be used to visit chat rooms or pornographic sites. Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action.


Physics is challenging - even for the most talented students. Students - even very capable students - who will not ask questions or seek help with difficulties should not expect to do well in Physics.

The good news is that help is always available. I am available before, during, and after class, and before and after school. (There will often be an AP Physics/Calculus help session before school, but not always - ask!) Additionally, help is available during "flex" period. Also, I do not mind phone calls at home - before 9:00 P.M.


Please read the Classroom Discipline Policy and Laboratory Safety Rules.

BHS -> Mr. Stanbrough -> this page
last update September 11, 2006 by JL Stanbrough