Physical Sciences

Environmental Science

This is part of a year 10 program I designed for environmental science, with a focus on ecological sustainability and its conflict with economic growth, stemming directly from my doctoral research project. It addresses the NSW Stage 5 Science syllabus outcome ES3c: “evaluate scientific evidence of some current issues affecting society that are the result of human activity on global systems, eg the greenhouse effect, ozone layer depletion, effect of climate change on sea levels, long-term effects of waste management and loss of biodiversity.”

The preceding part of the program addresses ‘natural’ (i.e. human-devoid) systems, aligned with the NSW Stage 5 Science syllabus outcome ES3a: “Outline how global systems rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, including the carbon cycle.”

The overall aim of the program is to raise students’ awareness of the impact that humans’ are having on the earth and to foster their understanding that economic growth and ecological sustainability are in conflict. The more radical focus on the connection between economic growth and capitalism was not emphasised in this program.


Physicists often model light as an electromagnetic wave. This is a series of assessments for a physics program on light that I created as part of my Masters of Teaching. The content was designed for the Queensland senior physics syllabus at that time.

This was my fourth year Engineering Physics thesis: a design for an earthquake victim location transponder. At that time I had plans to travel to and work in Japan, and I thought I might be able to propose the design to a manufacturer there. While I did the first of these, the second didn’t pan out.


This is a program I designed from scratch on energy, forces, and motion for a year 10 class, with a focus on sustainability. As noted in the program, right from the start of the energy component of the unit, on their own initiative the students inquired about the amount of renewable energy being generated by the school’s solar panels. This led to an investigation of the school’s power bill and a class exercise to calculate what fraction of the school’s energy consumption came from its solar panels, and that from remote, conventional sources. The results were sobering as most came from conventional (i.e. fossil energy) sources. This and other activities which were grounded in the students’ lives were intended to pique their interest in this important subject.

For the energy component of the unit, the culminating assessment task was for the students to design a wind turbine which maximized the amount of power it generated. To do this they adjusted three variables: the number of blades, the size of the blades, and the angle the blades made with the wind. This is a work sample showing one group’s results.


The first time I had the opportunity to teach acoustics was while working at QUT several years ago. Basically I borrowed a keyboard from the music department and used it to play different chords so that we could hear the varying degrees of consonance and dissonance as those chords’ frequency ratios increased. The only remnants of that lesson I can find are these.

More recently, I taught a mini unit on the physics of music to a home school group and developed this basic idea more fully from the basic principles of sound, extending the ideas to music specifically. You can view each of the four lessons here (123, and 4) . You’ll notice that there is some overlap in the lessons since we did not get through everything I had planned. This is most often the case. Although some of the best lessons are ones which evolve impromptu, it’s far better to have some extra resources / activities than to finish with nothing left to do.