My AP Physics B class developed capstones as their final rather than a traditional exam. I give them tons of tests to help them prepare for the AP exam; so, I didn’t want to give them a traditional summative final for the fall semester. I wanted them to synthesize multiple concepts, have a choice in the topic they pursue, and present it in an engaging and creative manner.
I had remembered reading about John Burk’s capstones and modeled mine after his. While I have done similar end-of-semester projects before, these were by far the most successful. Reflecting on the capstones, I think a couple of factors helped my students be so successful.
The first is that I provided several exemplars as sources of inspiration. I stressed that I didn’t want a traditional lab report or a PowerPoint presentation. I wanted something that other students would want to read or watch. I pointed students to the following YouTube channels and blogs:
Based on our current unit, I frequently share links to these folks; so, most students were familiar with their style. Since I wanted students to spend the final exam period engaged in each other’s capstones and I would be spending my winter break scoring these capstones, I wanted them to be as interesting as possible.
The second factor that contributed to my students’ success is the requirement that students submit an initial idea for their capstone and then are provided considerable time in class for work and feedback from me. I spent an entire two days moving from student to student and sharing feedback on their capstone. Students had two additional days to work in class, solicit additional feedback, and use lab equipment. This wasn’t enough feedback for every student. A few really needed another round of review and feedback as their capstones missed the mark. While they could have solicited this additional input on their own, their final capstone would have been better if I could have shared another round of feedback.
The third factor that contributed to success is that I provided access to a wide range of technology, but I didn’t mandate that students use any particular technology. This is how educational technology should be integrated into the classroom, it is a tool to enhance learning where appropriate and not a means to an end unto itself. Students chose to use a high-speed video camera, Tracker, Logger Pro, iPads, iPad document camera stand, Educreations app, Scribd, video screen capture, VPython, LabPro and sensors, Vimeo video hosting for embedding, and Canvas ePortfolios.
There were so many fantastic capstones. I selected several to share that represent the variety of engaging presentations:
- Energy Efficiency of a Piano Minute Physics-style video
- D-Rose and Gravity An xkcd What If-style capstone on how the position of celestial bodies affects Derrick Rose’s vertical
- Bubbles Vogue-style magazine about Secrets of the Soap Bubble: How to be Beautiful
- Yo-Yos video analysis of a yo-yo to calculate its moment of inertia
- The Physics of Space Travel and Orbital Manuevers analysis of Kerbal Space Program simulator
- No Stress about Stresses Minute Physics-inspired video
- Newton’s Law of Cooling Experiment Well done and polished experiment to explore Newton’s Law of Cooling for different liquids
- LCAC Hovercraft Analysis Minute Physics-inspired video
- Lava Lamps in the style of a science magazine
Thanks to John Burk for planting the capstone seed in my mind and Derek, Henry, Rhett, and Randall for providing amazing and engaging exemplars for my students to model!
In case you’re interested, here is the rubric. It isn’t perfect, but it worked okay: