Physics Curriculum Guide

Source: Janis Elliott, Bellevue Public Schools 7-12 Science Curriculum Coordinator


     The Bellevue Public Schools science curriculum promotes learning processes, critical thinking skills, and the natural curiosity of all learners.  The curriculum fosters scientific literacy that relates to issues in science, technology, careers, and society across various cultures.  Content and process-oriented learning experiences are provided in a developmental sequence, include the scientific method, and challenge the learner to apply knowledge to solve problems and make decisions.  Through the use of hands-on instructional methods and the integration of technology, the curriculum enables our students to become life-long learners.

    It is the mission of the K-12 science program in the Bellevue Public Schools that students acquire knowledge of scientific processes and concepts that lead students to the responsible and productive application of science as it affects individual and societal challenges.

     The teachers of science in the Bellevue Public Schools are committed to a science curriculum that supports the National Science Education Standards.  It is therefore our goal to enable all students to:  
Experience the richness and excitement of knowing about and understanding the natural world.
Use appropriate scientific processes and principles in making personal decisions.
Engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about matters of scientific and technological concern.
Increase their economic productivity through the use of the knowledge, understanding, and skills of the scientifically literate person in their careers regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic background or gender.

  Nature of Science. :  
     In many respects, physics is the most fundamental natural science.  It involves universal laws and the study of the behavior and relationships among a wide range of important physical phenomena.  To develop a complete understanding of the principles and the discipline of physics, students must have an understanding of science as a discipline.  
The use of the scientific method, measurement tools and measurement systems will be used to introduce students to process and skills involved in science.  These skills will be developed in a laboratory setting using scientific safety and responsible decisions.  
The history of the development of physics and scientific endeavors will be studied understand the role of science in today’s society.  The impact of science and technology on society will be addressed from the standpoint of the physics community. 
2.    The physics curriculum should develop awareness and understanding, allowing students to apply and evaluate key concepts.  
     The physics curriculum uses the investigative and problem-solving approaches so the student will gain a genuine understanding of the physical laws that are fundamental to all science.  The curriculum will use various methods of learning to familiarize the students with the basic core principles of physics.  
The core concepts of physics include: Scientific Method, Measurement, Distance, Displacement, Speed, Velocity, Acceleration, Projectile Motion, Newton's Laws of Motion, Circular Motion, Work, Power, Kinetic Energy, Gravitational Potential Energy, Momentum, Electric Circuits, Electromagnetism, Atomic Nature Of Matter, Heat Transfer, Vibrations and Waves, and Relativity.
3.  The physics curriculum should provide students with basic scientific literacy.  
     The scientifically literate individual maintains a life-long interest in science. Students should be able to develop positive attitudes towards science, which they will continue to nurture throughout their lives. An interesting, relevant physics curriculum provides students with good reasons for studying the subject, as well as good reasons for maintaining an interest in the subject once they have completed their formal education.  
Students should experience the concept that physics is a discipline that is not just studied but rather is practiced.  Physics extends into the realm of technology and applied sciences.  Many important technological developments can be appreciated through a solid foundation in physics.  Someone who has a good basic understanding of physics can grasp applications in engineering, medicine and a wide variety of other fields.  
     In an information-based society, with widespread public concerns relating to issues as complex as the protection of the environment, new developments in space exploration, low level electromagnetic radiation, the proliferation of technologically advanced weapons systems, and other controversial technological issues, a scientifically literate society is needed more urgently than ever before. While solutions to these kinds of issues are indeed difficult to find, physics does provide a way in which these types of problems can be understood and approached  It offers a scientific view empowers society to make informed, rational decisions based on diverse ways of thinking about problems.
4.  The physics curriculum should provide students with opportunities to understand important interrelationships among science, technology, society, and the environment.  Clear distinctions need to be made to allow students to be able to differentiate between science and technology. They are different but related forms of human endeavor. The similarities and differences between science and technology need to be emphasized. The ways in which science and technology operate within a larger societal context should be stressed whenever possible. 
     Advances in science and technology are often responsible for initiating a public debate, until issues have been clarified. Technological change alters society. In turn, an informed society has the responsibility of determining the direction that scientific research and technological development should follow.
     The use of technology in the classroom may help to familiarize students with some of the ways in which science and technology operate together. In particular, computers should be used in the physics classroom whenever possible, to aid in (but not replace) the analysis of laboratory investigations, to perform simulations, to assist in problem solving, and to explore a wide variety of micro worlds that are now made available through the use of innovative educational software.
5.  The physics curriculum is inquiry and activity based.  It is important that a strong laboratory-based physics program be used to add relevance and concrete examples to the study of a wide range of physical phenomena. Skills and important knowledge, which can only be imparted through an inquiry-based approach, would otherwise be missing from the physics program if these types of activities were omitted. 
     The term "activity" is used more broadly to encompass a wide variety of different kinds of instructional strategies. Activities could include such things as: laboratory investigations, field trips, demonstrations, simulations, interviews, large or small group discussions, learning centers, independent research work, and role playing games. Laboratory activities involve the cooperation of different people working together. Communication and a willingness to work with others are essential components of a good laboratory program.
     A concern for safety remains a crucial consideration in all science programs. Students need to be made aware of any potential hazards that could arise in a laboratory setting, or in other settings such as field trips that could be potentially hazardous. Whenever students are exposed to new situations with which they have only limited familiarity, or if they are working with materials or equipment that has the potential of being hazardous, proper precautions should be exercised with diligence and extreme care.
6.      The physics curriculum has a strong emphasis on problem solving.   Problem solving plays an important role in the study of physics, and it should be one of the components of the course, which is given strong emphasis. Students need to develop systematic, organized ways of investigating all types of problems. Part of the emphasis should be on giving consideration to the way in which problems are approached and solved. Rearranging and manipulating formulas, with little or no understanding of why the formulas are used or what they mean, is of questionable value.
    Moreover, students need to appreciate that real problems are much more complex than the way in which problems are often presented in p physics textbooks. Not all problems can be approached by plugging values into some equation to arrive at a numerical solution. In reality, many problems tend to be holistic in nature, encompassing a broad understanding of various different disciplines. Descriptive solutions to real world problems are also common, though not often portrayed in a realistic manner in textbooks. Many problems are approached collectively, and decisions are reached by consensus among scientists and other concerned individuals.
Finally, it needs to be emphasized that not all problems have solutions. Instead, problems tend primarily to lead people to determine effective ways of going about investigating them. This is in keeping with an authentic view of science. Students need to realize that physics does not have the answers to all problems. Some problems fall outside of the realm of physics. Others only offer a glimpse at some of the ways in which to go about trying to explore them.


The Nature of Science
Linear Motion
Projectile Motion
Newton’s First Law of Motion – Inertia
Newton’s Second Law of Motion – Force and Acceleration
Newton’s Third Law of Motion – Action and Reaction
Circular Motion
Center of Gravity
Rotational Mechanics
Universal Gravitation
Gravitational Interactions
Satellite Motion
Vibrations and Waves
Reflection and Refraction
Diffraction and Interference
Electric Fields and Potential
Electric Current
Electric Circuits
Electromagnetic Induction
The Atomic Nature of Matter
The Atomic Nucleus and Radioactivity
Nuclear Fission and Fusion


1.      The student will apply principles of motion to solve two-dimensional and three-dimensional problems.

2.      The student will use principles of mechanics to solve problems.

3.      Conceptualize the principles of energy conservation and increasing disorder in systems.

4.      Understand the principles of sound and optics.

5.      Understand the principles of electricity and magnetism.

6.  Understand selected concepts in modern physics.

WRITING IN THE CONTENT AREA:  Accreditation procedures of the Nebraska Department of Education require that each core curriculum area address instruction in written composition.  The following activities are recommended for the area of science.  The course guide includes opportunities for these activities to occur.

  • Formal reports on experiments:  Purpose, procedure, observation, results

  • Research reports on science topics, including biographies, movements

  • Essay question answers

  • Journaling on a given scientific concepts

  • Maintenance of a science notebook

  • Book reports of science related books

  • Biographical reports on scientific figures

  • Outlines of portions of chapters

  • Instruction for the performance of an experiment

  • Reaction and evaluation for an oral or multimedia presentation related to science

  • Multimedia projects on a given science topic

  • Investigation of an industry, product, or theory

  • Report on a science project

  • Position paper on a given science and societal issue

MULTICULTURAL EDUCATIONThe Nebraska Department of Education requires that multicultural education be integrated into each curriculum each year.  The Bellevue Public School District is committed to providing an education for its students, which is characterized by multicultural awareness and ethnic literacy.  The learning environment will be one in which students and staff will:  (1) understand and respect racial and cultural diversity, and (2) be aware of materials that provide accurate and sensitive treatments of ethnic populations.  The course guide includes opportunities for these activities to occur.

ASSESSMENT POLICY:  The Nebraska Department of Education believes that the assessment of student academic performance is a local responsibility.  Local assessment serves three major purposes:

  • To aid in planning and providing classroom instruction appropriate to student needs;

  • To assist in making decisions about placement of students;

  • To monitor the progress of students in a program, school, or district.

  Although each function is vital, the primary purpose of assessment is to improve instruction and increase learning in the classroom.  The results of assessment should be used primarily to judge how well individual students are learning and to modify instruction accordingly.

  Since each assessment process or instrument has different strengths, no single one can adequately achieve all of the above purposes.  Therefore, multiple assessment processes are necessary to provide information for teachers, parents, and policy makers.

TEXTBOOK SELECTION :  By committee selection and the Bellevue Public School Board of Education adoption, the following textbook has been approved to meet the revised science curriculum goals and objectives:

Conceptual Physics 3rd Edition with Expanded Technology

Paul G. Hewitt

Scott Foresman Addison Wesley

Copyright 1999