This month, Mark talks with John Baunach, a modeler and teacher of ninth-grade physics. He talks about his career journey as well as the ways that modeling changed his teaching. They talk about computational modeling in physics first using code to help students understand mechanics. They also talk about the flow of courses at John’s school and the newest modeling workshop, modeling astronomy. Finally, they talk about tips for new modelers and advice to all teachers.
John has been teaching for nearly a decade, in public, private, and parochial high schools (and briefly in a university setting). He was born and raised in Louisville, KY, before attending Vanderbilt for his Bachelor’s in Physics and Astronomy. He taught briefly after graduation at a local public high school, before returning for a Master’s in Physics, where he was blessed to volunteer at NASA’s Langley Research Center while finishing his thesis on space radiation protection modeling. He returned to education in the Nashville area, and in 2014 he attended a modeling workshop at Western Kentucky University, which had a career-changing impact on his teaching philosophy. He worked for three years at a school with a Physics First curriculum and Modeling Instruction integrated at all levels of science.
He currently teaches Physics (9th Grade) and Statistics at Doane Academy, an independent K-12 day school in Burlington, NJ, just north of Philadelphia, where he is also the Science Department Chair and Director of Technology. He has led modeling workshops since 2020.
[13:13] John Baunach, on why computational modeling helps students to learn: “what I find is most important is that it changes how students see math and its relationship to physics. Because oftentimes we go from motion maps to graphs and then jump from graphs and kind of derive the equations of motion from a graph. And I find coding is another nice half step between that point. And it is a different way… it lets us look at the world in one more different way and one more useful way.”