Together with the Digital Serbia Initiative and UNICEF in Serbia, we have created interdisciplinary courses for primary and secondary school students, which transfer theories and problems from physics
In this way, a space on the Internet was created that allows students to simulate physics phenomena and program experiments, which can help them understand the world better. This interactive course called “Physics Simulations”, as well as the previously published courses “Epidemic” and “Algorithmic Art”, are available on the free platform net.kabinet at www.petlja.org/net.kabinet
We all know that physics is all around us, and often we are genuinely interested in the questions it raises until we are confronted with seemingly complicated and abstract formulas. With that in mind, these courses were created in line with official teaching and learning programmes, which will enable every student attending the seventh grade of elementary school and the first grade of high school to recognize and test the laws of physics with the help of a computer. The course provides answers to the questions such as how a parachute works, and it allows us to examine a free fall from the leaning tower of Pisa or a scooter ride on ice. Conceived in such a way that, in addition to their head, students also have to use their fingers and the keyboard, the “Physics Simulations” courses will bringto life theories and experiments from physics by putting them on a computer screen.
Due to their interdisciplinarity, the courses invite physics and informaticsteachers to cooperate. They are written in popular language, full of engaging illustrations, TikTok videos and examples that lead students to the world of experiments, measurements, testing, and thus the development of critical thinking. Doctor of Physics Tijana Marinković, a teacher at the Sixth Belgrade Grammar School and one of the authors of the course, points out:
“As authors, we wanted to show students, through numerous examples that they can see and experience almost every day, that physics is far more present in our lives than what most of us think. Furthermore, we wanted to tackle this science in a more interactive and modern way, providing opportunities for students not only to take us at our word but test what they learn and thus reject or confirm a claim.”
In addition to Tijana, many other experts worked on the course, including Ivan Razumenić, software engineer at the Microsoft Development Centre in Serbia, Mladen Šljivović, physics teacher at the Zaječar Grammar School and one of the two Serbian candidates for this year’s Global Teacher Prize. Nebojša Vasiljević, director of the Petlja Foundation, and Milan Vugdelija, author of numerous Petlja materials and a teacher at the Computing Grammar School. All of them brought their rich experience gained in both formal and non-formal educationinto the course. Aleksandra Dragović, a student at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Novi Sad, whose popular science TikTok channel attracted more than 125,000 followers, and tattoo artist Katarina Zlatić, whose illustrations gave colour to the pages of the course,also contributed to the course.
USING PROGRAMMING TO UNDERSTAND PHYSICS BETTER
One of the authors, Ivan Razumenić, explains how programming is often domain-oriented, present in almost all scientific disciplines, and especially in natural sciences such as physics:
“As a software engineer, I work every day on creating digital replicas of space, people and objects, intending to erase the boundaries between the real and the virtual world. Thanks to these replicas and physical simulations, we show virtual objects (holograms) that a person can control in a natural way; they are affected by gravity, bounce off walls or slide down a curved table. However, for all this, we need knowledge of physics, and that is why I believe that students who adopt the concepts of laws of physics on time will have the opportunity to use that knowledge in different ways, following their curiosity and future vocation.”
On the other hand, as Mladen Šljivović points out, the course is an important tool for teachers to whom it enables cooperation, helps them recognize the importance of the subjects they teach, and encourages project work, creativity and critical thinking in students through project teaching. He adds:
“I like to use board gamesin teaching, andthrough project teaching, draw additional attention to the application of knowledge acquired from physics and instruct students to combine their knowledge from different subjects through experiments and research. I think that it is important for high school students to know that the subjects they have should not be viewed as separate islands and that tomorrow they will be required to have an interdisciplinary approach and skills that are not part of any single subject but a combination of several, currently this is the case, for example, in the video game industry.”
Interdisciplinary courses “Algorithmic Art”, “Epidemic”, and “Physics Simulations” were recently officially supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, which invited schools in Serbia to include these courses in regular classes.
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