Why are middle school students losing interest in physics? Why is Australia falling behind in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)?

We in the Einstein First Project believe we have the answer. This is because students’ internet experience with science is in complete conflict with the school curriculum.

** Read more: Why don’t we teach Einstein’s theories in school?
**

For National Science Week, I spoke to 650 students, ages 5-11. I asked if they had heard of black holes. At least 80% raised their hands.

Where do we find black holes in the curriculum? We are not. You can’t talk about black holes with 19th century physics.

The students made it clear to us that they think that school science is about “old stuff”.

So we need to modernize the curriculum. We need to replace 19th century concepts with 21st century concepts and teach the language of modern physics to everyone from elementary school onwards.

Today we publish our book Teaching Einsteinian Physics in Schools. It is intended to lead a revolution in school science from the 3rd grade onwards.

## Young students understand Einstein’s concepts

Einstein’s discoveries in 1905 sparked a conceptual revolution. The final steps, Einstein’s 1915 theory of gravity and de Broglie’s 1924 discovery that all matter and radiation have a combination of ripple and sphericity (usually called wave particle duality), radically changed physicists’ ideas of space, time, matter, and radiation. These discoveries are the basic concepts for almost all modern technology.

** Read more: Explainer: What is wave-particle duality
**

Einstein first Author stated

Ten years ago I asked, “Is it possible to teach Einstein’s concepts in elementary school?” Colleagues said, “Of course not. You have to learn Newton’s physics first! “

I answered bluntly! Newtonian physics is both conceptually and factually wrong. It says that things can move at any rate and that gravity moves instantly, time is the same everywhere, mass and energy are independent of each other, and the universe runs like clockwork.

Our team made a first attempt to teach Einstein’s physics in a primary school. Our most amazing discovery was that children weren’t amazed: they just accepted the ideas. This led to an eight-year test phase in a large number of elementary and high schools.

We taught the students that light is created as photons that have a combination of waviness and sphericity, that space is curved by matter and this changes the geometry, and that time on a mountain is different. None of this surprised her particularly.

And the kids loved it. A third grade teacher said:

“They ended up using vocabulary and understanding concepts that would normally only be introduced in high school. It was really hard to get her to stop doing what she was doing. What was surprising was that they so easily accepted concepts that most adults and teachers find very difficult. “

## Activity-based learning works – and it’s fun

Einstein first Author stated

The children love action-oriented learning. And they love toys, so we use toys wherever possible.

We use nerf bullets as toy photons, ping pong balls as toy electrons, and toy molecules made from magnetic tennis balls and ping pong balls. Sometimes we use toy cars as photons and use objects of increasing mass to increase their storey (i.e., momentum). These toys allow experiments such as toy UV photons to dissociate toy molecules to explain why UV light can break our DNA and cause skin cancer, and why radio photons (and 5G!)

Einstein’s physics has enormous explanatory power, be it on the level of quantum interaction or gravity. Einstein’s gravity describes space as an elastic tissue. We use Lycra as our two-dimensional toy spacetime. The stretching of space and time is easy to measure and almost all gravitational phenomena can be observed by rolling various balls on the lycra, as the video below shows.

** Read more: Inquisitive Children: Why Is There Gravity?
**

Students of all levels love to play with these spacetime simulators. They investigate how the trajectory of photons is deflected when space is curved, how gravitational gradients tear comets apart, how orbits change their orientation in space (called precession), how stars and planets form, and how galaxies get their shapes. A 7th grade teacher said:

“[It] makes it much easier to talk to students about interesting things, such as the latest discovery of the black hole. “

## Lessons that give our world meaning

The absorption of infrared photons by CO₂ molecules is what drives climate change. Toy molecules held together by magnets enable students to explore the different modes of vibration of a CO₂ molecule compared to an O₂ molecule and to learn how photon absorption does this.

We combine our toys with real but relatively inexpensive devices like solar panels, drills, LED lights and laser pointers.

Laser pointers make it possible to investigate the waviness of light in a whole series of interference experiments. Solar panels show beefiness, photons ejecting electrons, and are great for almost all electricity and energy studies in elementary and middle school. A solar panel can power a 12V electric drill, which can be used for lifting, generating frictional heat, and harnessing energy created by converting photons into a stream of electrons – the photoelectric effect for which Einstein won the Nobel Prize .

## Help teachers overcome their fears

The biggest obstacle to introducing Einstein’s physics is the fear factor for teachers. People still claim it is too difficult for teachers. We have found that if we put activity first, such as geometry on woks, for teachers with no science background, they easily understand the concept that the shape of space can be measured by geometry.

Einstein first Author stated

The teaching of Einstein’s physics in schools is based on international experience with more than 20 authors. It is presented at the level required for school teachers, including some high school materials.

It is devoid of scary equations because those equations, whether Einsteinian or Newtonian, have no place in the school curriculum. Instead, we teach a lot about how to deal with the huge numbers and tiny numbers we need to imagine to deal with the universe, as well as probability and “the math of arrows” (vectors) because these powerful concepts are important to everyone.

Most students will not specialize in physics. Einstein-First’s goal is for all students to complete the compulsory science years with the basic knowledge and vocabulary of our best understanding of the physical universe.

** Read more: We need to get more women involved in physics – that would help all of humanity
**

After testing our 7th grade program on gravity, one teacher reported:

“Classes include modeling concepts with practical ‘concrete’ materials, a teaching approach that offers multi-sensory learning opportunities that enable all students to be successfully involved.”

“Girls particularly benefit from the way the program is presented with group learning and activities. It’s not intimidating and teachers like me enjoy the program because it makes my classes feel much more rewarding. “

“The remarkable thing about Einstein’s physics classes is that the students are fully committed, disturbances are rare and students with learning difficulties are practically indistinguishable from regular students.”

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