Home experiments to support remote teaching of physics

Remote teaching support for

A collection of home experiment resources to use remotely with your students.

The suggestions in the resources consist of both simulations, which colleagues may find useful to set 'virtual practicals', and simple experiments that demonstrate basic principles. Many of the suggestions can be used across different age groups with appropriate questions to test understanding.

Health and Safety Guidance

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.
Electricity and Magnetism

Home experiments to support the remote teaching and learning of electricity and magnetism

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19

A selection of electricity and magnetism experiments and simulations that are suitable to use remotely with your students.

Health and Safety Guidance

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use. All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

For students aged 11-14 and 14-16:

Static electricity – a great topic for getting hands on:

Attracting a drinks can 

Static UFO

Forceful comb

Static spinning straw

Static electricity simulation

Circuits – online simulations can give a feel of the real thing

Circuit construction kit

Crack the circuit - circuit building game

Magnetism – interesting investigations for household magnets and simulations means everyone has access to a compass.

Fridge magnets

Magnet and compass simulation

 

For students aged 14-16 and 16-19:

Combining resistors simulation

Electromagnetic lab simulation

Catapult force simulation

Transformer simulation

 

For students aged 16-19:

Faraday's law simulation

Electric generator simulation

Sound Wave
Light Sound and Waves

Home experiments to support the remote teaching and learning of Light, Sound and Waves

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19

A selection of home experiments that are suitable to use with your students remotely to support and develop their understanding of light, sound and waves. Online simulations of experiments that students would not be able to replicate easily at home are shown in italic. This page will be updated and added to regularly.

Health and Safety Guidance:

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;

  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;

  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

For all age ranges:

  • Soundmeter apps (The link provided takes students to a free download of a 'software oscilloscope' that uses a computer's sound card) can be compared to Slink-o-scope to explain why a transverse graph is drawn to show displacement for a longitudinal sound wave.
  • PhET waves intro has three animations that link to water waves, sound and light and introduce the terms frequency and amplitude. The water wave animation can also be used to replicate part of the GCSE waves required practical.
  • Marvin and Milo Eerie Blue Water - for students aged 11-14 this shows how sunlight contains lots of different colours of light. For students aged 14-16 it considers another part of the electromagnetic spectrum. For students aged 16-19 it could be used to consider the excitation and de-excitation of electrons (a nice link to how a fluorescent light works!).

For students aged 11-14:

  • Make a pinhole camera to investigate how light rays form an image (Pringles tubes make good ones - with a hole in the metal end, greaseproof under the plastic cap and foil removed).
  • PhET Bending light can be used to explore refraction.
  • Dancing Sprinkles can be used to introduce the idea that sound is a vibration of the air.
  • Marvin and Milo Musical Coathangers shows how volume is affected by the material the sound wave travels through (can also be done with roasting racks or by dropping a metal slinky with strings attached).
  • Marvin and Milo Milk Bottle Orchestra explores how the amount of material that vibrates affects the sound produced (bonus points if you can get a selection of bottles together and play a tune!).
  • Marvin and Milo Sound of Gas demonstrates how the speed and pitch of a sound produced is affected by the material it travels through.
  • Soundmeter apps can help students to learn about the effect of distance and insulating materials on amplitude.

Suitable for students aged 11-14 and 14-16:

For students aged 14-16:

  • Marvin and Milo Pouring Light looks at total internal reflection (and can link to teaching communications and the electromagnetic spectrum).
  • Lighting a home with water bottles is an article looking at an innovative way to light your home! You could try making one of these at home (but don't go as far as drilling the holes in your roof...)
  • Refraction and lenses (from The Physics Classroom) has a variety of simulations to investigate and model refraction - and also how to draw lens ray diagrams.
  • PhET Geometric optics looks at lens ray diagrams and how changing factors about the lens affects the image produced (please note: select 'principle rays' from the list in the top left corner).
  • Measuring the speed of sound using echoes gives a method for students to do just that! This also helps to reinforce some of the key points used in speed/distance/time ultrasound calculations.
  • Measuring the wavelength and speed of water waves using method 2 (can be done using baking trays or other suitable rectangular containers) gives an alternative to one part of the wave speed required practical - which can therefore be completed at home.

Suitable for students aged 14-16 and 16-19:

  • PhET Wave on a string explores a model for a transverse wave and looks at different factors that can be changed (if you get the settings right you should be able to produce a standing wave, which ties in nicely to required practicals at both GCSE and A-level).
  • PhET radio waves and electromagnetic fields looks at how radio waves can be produced and how radio waves can induce an alternating current.
  • PhET Blackbody spectrum enables students to investigate the effect of changing the temperature on the blackbody curve produced.
Energy Transferred by Conduction
Energy and Thermal Physics

Home experiments and simulations to support the remote teaching and learning of energy and thermal physics

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16

A selection of home experiments and simulations that are suitable to use remotely with your students.

Health and Safety Guidance

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
     
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;
     
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

These experiments and online resources are suitable for students aged 11-14 and 14-16:

Density
Properties of Matter

Home experiments to support the remote teaching and learning of Properties of Matter

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19

The following suggestions are intended to provide a 'flavour' of practical work while students are working at home. The suggestions consist of both simulations, which colleagues may find useful to set 'virtual practicals', and simple experiments that demonstrate basic principles. Many of the suggestions can be used across age groups with appropriate questions to test understanding. Some of these come from the Marvin and Milo resources, which cover many topics in an accessible way.

Health and Safety Guidance

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use. All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

For use with students aged 11-14:

  • Ice-Water-Oil is a quick practical to demonstrate the concept of density. Alternatively, Density of ice from the Royal Society of Chemistry has a very similar method.
  • Marvin and Milo's Cloud in a Glass demonstrates condensation.
  • The PhET States of Matter simulation shows what is happening at a particle level for solids, liquids and gases.
  • To introduce the effect of changing temperature on the gas pressure inside a container, the Cool-Coin Launcher from the Naked Scientists is a good alternative to an exploding can.

For use with students aged 14-16:

For use with students aged 16-19:

  • Strawberry laces, or similar, can be used to investigate the effect of forces in this Stretchy Sweets practical. Without lab equipment students could use coins as an alternative to standard masses, giving them something extra to consider in their evaluation.
  • Using the teacher worksheets that accompany the PhET Hooke's Law simulation allows students to focus on the mathematical relationships involved.
  • The American 'Teach Engineering' site has a detailed sequence of activities that include practical applications of Young's Modulus, Mechanics of Elastic Solids.
  • The Materials collection includes useful explanations and diagrams that can be provided to students to accompany other resources.
  • Building on the link in the section above, the PhET Gas Laws simulation includes more detail such as connections between temperature and particle velocity.
Force
Forces and Motion

Home Experiments to support the remote teaching and learning of Forces and Motion

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

Health and Safety Guidance

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

The following resources are suitable for students aged 11-14 and 14-16:

Simulations can be useful to generate data in many contexts. 

  • An interactive simulation to investigate the law of moments.
  • The basic effects of force on motion can be explored using this PhET simulation.
  • The interaction of drag and weight can be experimented with using this Physics Classroom simulation - Skydiving
  • Othe interactives from Physics Classroom include:
  • Projectile motion simulation can be used to explore the independence of horizontal and vertical motion.
  • Hooke's Law interactive simulation. This simulation shows how the force applied to a spring is proportional to the extension of the spring. 

For students aged 14-19:

  • Static crate investigates vectors. 
  • Coulomb's law interactive simulation. Students can use this to plot a graph to show the factors affecting the strength of the force between two charged objects (16-19 only).
  • A similar interactive simulation explores Newton's Law of Gravity.
  • Designing a Space Elevator takes students aged 16-19 through a series of material property calculations.
  • A number of PhET simulations can be used to investigate simple harmonic motion. These include Masses and Springs and Pendulum Lab.
  • Many useful interactives can be found at surendranath.org. Forced, Damped Oscillations is a fun one that can be used to investigate resonance
Earth
Earth and Space

Home Experiments to support the remote teaching and learning of Earth and Space

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

The following resources are suitable for students aged 11-14 and 14-16:

  • Marvin and Milo experiments are useful for teaching younger students. In Water Fall, they investigate freefall and, in Doppler Spin, they reproduce the effects of motion on waves.
  • Seasons is an experiment that can be done at home that explains why it is warmer in the Summer. A similar activity can be found at the NSO pages.
  • The sky tonight shows students what would will be visible this evening. Encourage them to do some (socially distanced) stargazing.
  • Solar eclipses can be investigated here.

Simulations can be useful when teaching about Space. 

For students aged 14-19:

  • The Blackbody Spectrum can be explored with this PhET simulation. Use it to investigate Wein's Law.
  • The spectrum from differentlight sources can be captured using a Pringle's tube. Watch this video for the instructions.

Home experiments and simulations to support the remote teaching and learning of Quantum and Nuclear Physics

Remote teaching support for 14-16 16-19

In this page we have listed a range of experiments and simulations that students could do at home when working with the quantum and nuclear physics topics in their specifications. 

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

Lasers

This simulation from PhET will help students learn about how a traditional laser works and what population inversion means. To run this simulation the java file needs to be downloaded and run locally on your device, so unfortunately most tablets will not be able to support this activity.

The simulation has two settings:

  1. One atom laser - although this is highly simplistic, it is possible to achieve lasing from a single atom in this simulation. This is useful to learn the basics of stimulated emissions and population inversion. The key is to ‘play’ with the lifetime in energy levels 2 and 3 to really start to understand how population inversion can be achieved.
     
  2. Multiple atoms laser - this is a more realistic simulation setting which contains a number of atoms that can absorb and emit photons. So, once students are ready to move from the basic principles to more complex systems they can explore the simulation settings to achieve lasing and maintain the power output at a steady level.

By clicking on the link “For teachers” below the simulation thumbnail, you can access a range of worksheets and activities that will guide students in their learning about lasers with this simulation. You can see an example here.

Alpha particles scattering

This simulation from PhET is suitable for both 14-16 and 16-19 students and it will help them learn about the famous Rutherford’s experiment of alpha particles scattering. It is developed in HTML5, so it should work with most devices directly from a web browser. There are two settings that can be used:

  1. Plum pudding model of the atom - this will not deflect alpha particles and show that the traces go straight through
     
  2. Rutherford atom - this setting shows a few atoms of gold by default and all the positive charge concentrated at the nucleus. You can also change the number of protons and neutrons in the atoms, as well as the energy of the incident alpha particles

A range of activities could be developed for students using this simulation. For example, they could take screenshots of different interactions of alpha particles with gold atoms (or other atoms) and write a paragraph for each observation to support Rutherford’s model of the atom.

Line emission spectra

This is a really useful activity set up in a Google Spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is view only, so to allow your students to edit the spreadsheet and work on the activity, you will need to copy and paste all the cells in a new spreadsheet on your Google Drive, or Google Classroom. By clicking on the link in cell A2, you will open a beautiful simulation made in GeoGebra that illustrates the orbitals and the electron transitions between different orbitals. The transitions will also give the wavelength of the photon emitted, which the students need to complete the activity.

VPLab Simulations

Suggested file download guidance:

  1. Download the file you want.
  2. Right-click on the downloaded file, and select “extract all files” (make a note of which folder it is extracting the files to, so that you can find them again!)
  3. When it finishes extracting all the files, search for the “.exe” file and double-click on it
  4. The simulation will run on your computer for 7 days. 
  5. If your computer is a MAC, you will need to run the simulation through Wine Bottler 

Here are some useful simulations in VPL for Quantum and Nuclear physics:

  • Inverse Square Law (Radioactivity) – students move the detector away from the source and store ‘readings’ which are plotted on a graph, with ‘distance’ ‘1/distance’ and ‘1/distance squared’ as the axis options. [approximate expiration date for this link 26th May 2020]
  • Photoelectric Effect – students use 2 target materials; for each one they choose various values of colour/wavelength of the radiation and then use a variable resistor to ‘stop’ the photo-electric current. Results are plotted on a graph of stopping voltage v frequency; which is then used to obtain h (as far as I can see, the students don’t have to do the calculations). [approximate expiration date for this link 26th May 2020]
  • Young’s Slits Experiment – you can actually pick any number of slits from 1 to 10, adjust the brightness of the laser (red, green or blue) beam and adjust slit width and separation. Result is shown on a screen, with an option for intensity graph along with a handy popup window to show the geometry and the standard equation that appears on exam specs. [approximate expiration date for this link 30th May 2020]

Photoelectric Effect

This Phet simulation is suitable for A level students and is found in the STEM Learning Library. To access you will need a free account with a password. In this simulation students can see how light knocks electrons off a metal target, and recreate the experiment that spawned the field of quantum mechanics. Students could also predict the results of experiments of the photoelectric effect, e.g. how changing the intensity of light will affect the current and the energy of electrons, how changing the wavelength of light will affect the current and the energy of electrons, how changing the voltage will affect the current and the energy of electrons, how changing the material of the target will affect the current and the energy of electrons.

Black Body Radiation

This is another Phet simulation that is not included in the STEM Learning library.

It offers an opportunity for pupils to study how the blackbody spectrum of the sun compares to visible light. They can also learn about the blackbody spectrum of Sirius A, the sun, a light bulb, and the earth as well as adjust the temperature to see the wavelength and intensity of the spectrum change and view the color of the peak of the spectral curve.

Questions that could be used with this simulation include:

  • Describe what happens to the blackbody spectrum as you increase or decrease the temperature. What happens to the shape of the curve and the peak of this curve?
  • Describe the blackbody spectrum of a light bulb. Why do light bulbs get hot? Do they seem efficient? 
  • Imagine that you see 2 hot, glowing objects - one is glowing orange and the other is glowing blue. Which one is hotter?
  • Find the relationship between the temperature and the wavelength at the peak of the curve.

Home experiments

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19

A selection of experiments that are suitable to use remotely with your students.

Health and Safety Guidance

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;
  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;
  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

With students aged 11-14 years old:

With students aged 14-16 years old:

 

More resources, selected for remote use with your students, can be found in COVID-19 support.

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