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Shodor > CSERD > Resources > Activities

The Computational Science Education Reference Desk's Activities are stand alone modules which use computational science in an inquiry based exercise. Each activity includes a lesson, a lesson plan, and a list of materials. In most cases, the materials required will be computational in nature.

While the activities are geared towards introductory undergraduate classes, it is expected that many grade levels would benefit from these lessons. Where appropriate, lessons will be tied to national standards, standard courses of study, and known misconceptions.

Physics: Mechanics  (...)
The Space Ship Pilot lesson is a study of Newton's Laws of motion. Students use a model of a space shuttle and a ferry boat to study differences in an oject's motion with and without resistive forces.

Projectile motion and collisions lesson. Bounce has students take or use video data of a falling and bouncing ball, and analyze the velocity and acceleration in the vertical and horizontal direction.

The Pendulum Motion Lesson studies pendulum motion and the success and failure of the small amplitude approximation.

This exercise is designed to look at the difference between mass and weight, and to move students from a misconception of objects in space being weightless to objects in space being in free fall, and experiencing microgravity.

This lesson introduces students to the concept of wave equations, by studying a wave on a string. Online models of wave motion on a string are available for students to use to explore concepts.

Physics: Electricity and Magnetism  (...)
This lesson is designed to address electric field and potential, and it is assumed the students have studied electric charge.

An exercise on simple circuits and Ohm's Law using the circuit builder applet from

Physics: Modern Physics  (...)
Allows the students to explore a numerical solution of Schrodinger's equation applied to a 1-D potential well.

Allows the student to study the radial component of Shrodinger's equation for the single electron hydrogen atom through a numerical model.

This lesson allows the student to explore solutions to the angular momentum component of Schrodinger's equation applied to the single-electron Hydrogen atom.

This lesson allows students to learn about visualization techniques for functions of polar and spherical coordinates, and about visualizing functions of more than one variable. The content of the lesson is the electron cloud for the single electron Hydrogen atom.

Mathematics  (...)
The Vector Calculator is designed to help students understand the connection between a vector's magnitude and direction and its representation in x-y coordinates.

The purpose of this lesson is to cover the addition of vectors. Both graphical methods and component methods are covered.

This lesson introduces students to eigenvalue problems in Physics using a simple example of goal-seeking with a simple pendulum. Computer models are made available for students to use to explore concepts.

Astronomy  (...)
The Colors of Stars Lesson studies how we study temperature of objects through the radiation they emit. This lesson has the student compare three stars in Orion (one red, one whitish-blue, one deep blue) and try to determine which is hottest and which is coolest.

Phases of the Moon is a lesson designed to dispell the common, but incorrect, preconception that the lunar phases are caused by the shadow of the Earth falling on the moon.

The Photometry Lesson has students take astronomical data for stars and analyze that data to determine stellar temperature, size, and distance.

The Three D Constellation lesson introduces student to astromical coordinates and parallax by having them take astronomical data on stars from constellations, and having them convert that data into physical or computer three dimensional models.

The Interstellar Extinction Curve lesson intriduces students to interstellar extinction, and has them use a model of spherical grains to try and match the interstellar extinction curve.

Earth Science  (...)
One of the most important measures of the health of the stream is the level of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water. Oxygen (O2) dissolves in water through the mixing of the water surface with the atmosphere. The oxygen is used by fish and other animals in the water to "breath" through their gills or other respiratory systems and by plants. If the levels fall too low, many species of fish, macroinvertebrates, and plants cannot survive. At very low levels of oxygen, the stream becomes "septic" and smells rotten because low oxygen sulfur bacteria begin to dominate.

Biology  (...)
The Natural Selection lesson uses a Monte Carlo model of spot size with variability between generations in an environment with predators to study how variation and environment can affect a species over time.

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