About

Chaos Curriculum

From grades 2-12, Chaos has activities to challenge any student. Chaos utilizes its hands-on, minds-on approach to teach the vocabulary of physics to younger students and provides a solid, quantitative platform for older, more math-accomplished students. Activities are divided into three stages:

Stage I activities teach children an intuitive understanding of important physics concepts, such as forces, energy, and momentum. The activities are largely exploratory in nature and have no equations. The children also learn the names and meanings of important physics concepts, as well as examples of their use in everyday life.

Stage II activities introduce slightly more advanced concepts (such as the dissipation of energy as heat), but the emphasis is still largely on qualitative understanding. Introduction of mathematical formulas is very limited and involves elementary algebra at most.

Stage III activities are much more quantitative and are geared towards students with a background in algebra. At this level qualitative and quantitative understanding are taught together, and numerical examples and problems are given. The student has opportunities to conduct experiments, take data, and analyze and interpret results. This provides a powerful tool to develop hands-on experimental techniques.

Chaos conforms to the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (grades 2-12) in the following areas:

GRADE TWO

Physical Sciences

1. The motion of objects can be observed and measured. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know the position of an object can be described by locating it in relation to another object or to the background.

b. Students know an object’s motion can be described by recording the change in position of the object over time.

c. Students know the way to change how something is moving is by giving it a push or a pull. The size of the change is related to the strength, or the amount of force, of the push or pull.

d. Students know tools and machines are used to apply pushes and pulls (forces) to make things move.

e. Students know objects fall to the ground unless something holds them up.

g. Students know sound is made by vibrating objects and can be described by its pitch and volume.

Investigation and Experimentation

4. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Make predictions based on observed patterns and not random guessing.

b. Measure length, weight, temperature, and liquid volume with appropriate tools and express those measurements in standard metric system units.

c. Compare and sort common objects according to two or more physical attributes (e.g., color, shape, texture, size, weight).

d. Write or draw descriptions of a sequence of steps, events, and observations.

e. Construct bar graphs to record data, using appropriately labeled axes.

GRADE THREE

Physical Sciences

1. Energy and matter have multiple forms and can be changed from one form to another. As a basis for understanding this concept:

b. Students know sources of stored energy take many forms, such as food, fuel, and batteries.

c. Students know machines and living things convert stored energy to motion and heat.

d. Students know energy can be carried from one place to another by waves, such as water waves and sound waves, by electric current, and by moving objects.

Investigation and Experimentation

5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Repeat observations to improve accuracy and know that the results of similar scientific investigations seldom turn out exactly the same because of differences in the things being investigated, methods being used, or uncertainty in the observation.

b. Differentiate evidence from opinion and know that scientists do not rely on claims or conclusions unless they are backed by observations that can be confirmed.

c. Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects, events, and measurements.

d. Predict the outcome of a simple investigation and compare the result with the prediction.

e. Collect data in an investigation and analyze those data to develop a logical conclusion.

GRADE FOUR

Investigation and Experimentation

6. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.

b. Measure and estimate the weight, length, or volume of objects.

c. Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.

d. Conduct multiple trials to test a prediction and draw conclusions about the relationships between predictions and results.

e. Construct and interpret graphs from measurements.

f. Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

GRADE FIVE

Investigation and Experimentation

6. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

b. Develop a testable question.

c. Plan and conduct a simple investigation based on a student-developed question and write instructions others can follow to carry out the procedure.

d. Identify the dependent and controlled variables in an investigation.

e. Identify a single independent variable in a scientific investigation and explain how this variable can be used to collect information to answer a question about the results of the experiment.

f. Select appropriate tools (e.g., thermometers, meter sticks, balances, and graduated cylinders) and make quantitative observations.

g. Record data by using appropriate graphic representations (including charts, graphs, and labeled diagrams) and make inferences based on those data.

h. Draw conclusions from scientific evidence and indicate whether further information is needed to support a specific conclusion.

i. Write a report of an investigation that includes conducting tests, collecting data or examining evidence, and drawing conclusions.

GRADE SIX

Heat (Thermal Energy) (Physical Science)

3. Heat moves in a predictable flow from warmer objects to cooler objects until all the objects are at the same temperature. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know energy can be carried from one place to another by heat flow or by waves, including water, light and sound waves, or by moving objects.

Investigation and Experimentation

7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Develop a hypothesis.

b. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators, computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform tests, collect data, and display data.

c. Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the relationships between variables.

d. Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and oral presentations.

e. Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.

GRADE SEVEN

Physical Principles in Living Systems (Physical Science)

6. Physical principles underlie biological structures and functions. As a basis for understanding this concept:

i. Students know how levers confer mechanical advantage and how the application of this principle applies to the musculoskeletal system.

Investigation and Experimentation

7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators, computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform tests, collect data, and display data.

b. Use a variety of print and electronic resources (including the World Wide Web) to collect information and evidence as part of a research project.

c. Communicate the logical connection among hypotheses, science concepts, tests conducted, data collected, and conclusions drawn from the scientific evidence.

d. Construct scale models, maps, and appropriately labeled diagrams to communicate scientific knowledge (e.g., motion of Earth’s plates and cell structure).

e. Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and oral presentations.

GRADE EIGHT

Focus on Physical Science

Motion

1. The velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know position is defined in relation to some choice of a standard reference point and a set of reference directions.

b. Students know that average speed is the total distance traveled divided by the total time elapsed and that the speed of an object along the path traveled can vary.

c. Students know how to solve problems involving distance, time, and average speed.

d. Students know the velocity of an object must be described by specifying both the direction and the speed of the object.

e. Students know changes in velocity may be due to changes in speed, direction, or both.

f. Students know how to interpret graphs of position versus time and graphs of speed versus time for motion in a single direction.

Forces

2. Unbalanced forces cause changes in velocity. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know a force has both direction and magnitude.

b. Students know when an object is subject to two or more forces at once, the result is the cumulative effect of all the forces.

c. Students know when the forces on an object are balanced, the motion of the object does not change.

d. Students know how to identify separately the two or more forces that are acting on a single static object, including gravity, elastic forces due to tension or compression in matter, and friction.

e. Students know that when the forces on an object are unbalanced, the object will change its velocity (that is, it will speed up, slow down, or change direction).

f. Students know the greater the mass of an object, the more force is needed to achieve the same rate of change in motion.

Investigation and Experimentation

9. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Plan and conduct a scientific investigation to test a hypothesis.

b. Evaluate the accuracy and reproducibility of data.

c. Distinguish between variable and controlled parameters in a test.

GRADES 9 through 12

Motion and Forces

1. Newton’s laws predict the motion of most objects. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know how to solve problems that involve constant speed and average speed.

b. Students know that when forces are balanced, no acceleration occurs; thus an object continues to move at a constant speed or stays at rest (Newton’s first law).

c. Students know how to apply the law F = ma to solve one-dimensional motion problems that involve constant forces (Newton’s second law).

d. Students know that when one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object always exerts a force of equal magnitude and in the opposite direction (Newton’s third law).

e. Students know the relationship between the universal law of gravitation and the effect of gravity on an object at the surface of Earth.

f. Students know applying a force to an object perpendicular to the direction of its motion causes the object to change direction but not speed (e.g., Earth’s gravitational force causes a satellite in a circular orbit to change direction but not speed).

g. Students know circular motion requires the application of a constant force directed toward the center of the circle.

j. Students know how to resolve two-dimensional vectors into their components and calculate the magnitude and direction of a vector from its components.

Conservation of Energy and Momentum

2. The laws of conservation of energy and momentum provide a way to predict and describe the movement of objects. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know how to calculate kinetic energy by using the formula E = (1/2)mv² .

c. Students know how to solve problems involving conservation of energy in simple systems, such as falling objects.

d. Students know how to calculate momentum as the product mv.

e. Students know momentum is a separately conserved quantity different from energy.

f. Students know an unbalanced force on an object produces a change in its momentum.

g. Students know how to solve problems involving elastic and inelastic collisions in one dimension by using the principles of conservation of momentum and energy.

Heat and Thermodynamics

3. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, although in many processes energy is transferred to the environment as heat. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know heat flow and work are two forms of energy transfer between systems.

Investigation and Experimentation

1. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other four strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (such as computer-linked probes, spreadsheets, and graphing calculators) to perform tests, collect data, analyze relationships, and display data.

b. Identify and communicate sources of unavoidable experimental error.

c. Identify possible reasons for inconsistent results, such as sources of error or uncontrolled conditions.

d. Formulate explanations by using logic and evidence.

e. Solve scientific problems by using quadratic equations and simple trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions.

f. Distinguish between hypothesis and theory as scientific terms.

g. Recognize the usefulness and limitations of models and theories as scientific representations of reality.

j. Recognize the issues of statistical variability and the need for controlled tests.

k. Recognize the cumulative nature of scientific evidence.

Content Providers
Douglas Cannon

Douglas Cannon graduated Suma Cum Laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 1999 with a B.S. in Physics and a Masters of Business Administration, as well as minors in mathematics and computer science. As an undergraduate he was awarded two separate awards for outstanding performance in physics. He also spent multiple summers in the Materials Science Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory studying the high strain rate (high speed deformation) mechanical properties of materials, including Beryllium, depleted Uranium, and plastic explosives.

Douglas is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in electronic materials at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is studying the integration of optical waveguides with Germanium photodetectors for use in optoelectronic applications.

Damon McMillan

Damon McMillan graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. He is currently teaching school in Massachusetts.

Bruce Constantine

Born in Ottawa, Canada, Bruce lived is several eastern Canadian provinces before settling in Montreal. There, he attended McGill University, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.Eng. degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Chemistry. At McGill he was also involved in materials research, student government (serving in the Engineering Undergraduate Society) and athletics (skiing with the McGill Alpine Ski Team). He developed a solar-powered pump with no moving parts for this he was awarded the Professor Jules W. Stachiewicz Memorial Prize, McGill’s highest award for excellence in design engineering. He has interned with operations groups in such companies as Noranda, AlliedSignal and Amazon.com.

Bruce is currently working on his Masters in Material Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is investigating appropriate forward integration strategies for materials manufacturers. He hopes to take this knowledge to industry to pursue a career in manufacturing leadership.

Jim Minstrell

Jim Minstrell holds a B.A. in Mathematics Education, an M.S. in Science Education and a Ph.D. in Science Education. He has also received many awards:

  • The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Education.
  • Outstanding teacher at the secondary level, State of Washington.
  • Robert S. Millikan Award for notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.
  • Osher Fellow at the Exploratorium, San Francisco.
  • Mr. Minstrell has been given numerous grants and has been extensively published in various professional journals.

Chaos has enjoyed a long history of continuous recognition and awards.