Explorations in Physics: An Activity-Based Approach to Understanding the World


Contributing author: Kerry P. Browne, Dickinson College

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Explorations in Physics (EiP) is a set of curricular materials developed to help non-science majors acquire an appreciation of science, understand the process of scientific investigation, and master concepts in selected topic areas. Although EiP contains both text and experiments, it is neither a textbook nor a traditional laboratory manual. Rather, it is an Activity Guide - a student workbook that combines text with guided inquiry activities. Each EiP unit covers a specific topic area and has been designed as a stand-alone unit to give instructors maximum flexibility in designing courses. Whenever possible, each student concludes the investigations in a unit by undertaking an extended scientific project designed and carried out with two or three fellow students.

Explorations in Physics represents a philosophical and pedagogical departure from tradtional modes of instruction. While courses for non-science majors have typically focused on intrinsically interesting topics to help motivate students, the primary format of these classes remains the lecture. Explorations in Physics attempts to enrich the study of interesting topics with a hands-on approach to learning. Careful attention has been paid to maintaining a focused "story line" that directs students to connect specific activities to real-world phenomena. This provides a framework for students to develop their own scientific investigations which they complete during the project phase of the course.

Four Explorations in Physics units are contained in this volume. These include:

  • Unit A: Force, Motion, and Scientific Theories
  • Unit B: Light, Sight, and Rainbows
  • Unit C: Heat, Temperature, and Cloud Formation
  • Unit D: Buoyancy, Pressure, and Flight


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