Philip Ragan is a senior at the University of North Dakota, pursuing degrees in Secondary Science Education and Physics, as well as a B.F.A. in Ceramics. One requirement of the Physics degree is completion of an undergraduate research project. He identified a deficiency in high school science education he felt should be addressed: the subject of Quantum Physics is rarely, if ever, discussed in the high school classroom. It carries the stigma of a complicated and advanced area of physics. However, he believes the fundamental concepts are elementary enough to be introduced at a high school level as part of the overall physics curriculum. Exposure to this material helps students understand phenomena in the world around them and appreciate technological advancements they use daily. He also believe that it hones critical thinking skills by encouraging students to make connections, fathom implications, and deduce logical conclusions.
A standardized curriculum for Quantum Physics does not exist, so he set out to create a basic, introductory unit of curriculum. This unit included lectures, laboratory exercises, worksheet materials, and links to online resources. Working with his Teaching & Learning advisor, Dr. Lars Helegeson, and a research project advisor, Dr. Nuri Oncel, he created and developed a unit that could eventually be dispersed to science teachers across the country and implemented in any science classroom.
Once the material was put together, he was able to focus on field research. Once a week, he visited Four Winds High School on the Spirit Lake Reservation and gave lessons to a group of science students. The students took part in group activities and lab exercises during each visit. He also led them through worksheets on the various topics and gave them an overall assessment at the end of the unit. The students had a lot of fun doing the lab activities, and they seemed very curious about the concepts presented in the lessons. This was a great opportunity for them to experience activities and curriculum they would not normally have access to; it was also a wonderful opportunity to work directly with an excellent group of kids and try out his material. Overall, the project was a great success.