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Conservation: The Thermodynamics of Sustainability

This unit is centered around the concepts of heat, energy and efficiency.  Students will, over the course of the unit, be able to identify heat as a form of energy and link temperature to mechanical energy.  They will observe and identify the mechanisms of heat transfer and then quantify these heat flows.  Students will also apply energy conservation to thermodynamic systems, realizing that energy has to go somewhere and typically, energy that appears to have been lost just manifests itself elsewhere as heat.  The culminating project involves engineering an insulated coffee mug using what they know about thermodynamic principles, backing up their product with data and pitching it to the class.  The unit also features a conceptual debate format that can be used across all topics in a physics class as well as myth-busting activities and evaluations of pseudoscientific literature that rely on data and evidence supported argumentative writing.

This unit is designed for 11th grade students currently enrolled in a physics course meeting five days per week for 48 minutes at a time.  The initial unit will be designed for a class of Advanced Physics students, but will scale easily for students enrolled in AP Physics 2.

Klint Kanopka
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