Associate professors Jordi Vila and Arnold Moene, together with Bètasteunpunt secondary education physics coach Guido Linssen and Bètasteunpun project manager Desk Jeroen Sijbers, have won third prize in a competition run by the Working Group Didactics of Physics (WND) to find the best material for teaching physics. They were awarded the prize for their cloud physics simulation during the annual WND conference Didactics of Physics.
The cloud physics simulation introduces pre-university pupils to cloud formation in the atmospheric boundary layer, which is the lowest part of the atmosphere. The boundary layer plays an important role in how we perceive weather, partly because of the effect it has on the temperature. Processes in the boundary layer and interaction with the Earth’s surface have a strong influence on cloud formation. “This simulation allows pupils to discover the various processes in the boundary layer for themselves,” says Arnold Moene. “They learn how the energy and moisture balance on the surface heat and cool the boundary layer, and how these elements interact to cause cloud formation. They also discover how boundary layer clouds and mist develop under the influence of various conditions, such as seasonal variation, degrees of latitude, soil moisture levels and ground cover. At the end of the simulation, they also explore the influence of moisture conveyed by the wind, which plays a role when air is blown in over the North Sea, for example.”
Pupils can use the simulation as an independent learning method. The simulation offers five challenges, each one lasting approximately 15 minutes. Pupils can record the results of the challenges in a PDF file, for personal reference or for the teacher to check. The simulation can also be used in pairs. The jury described the teaching material as a well thought-out teaching aid for a new subject option in the second stage of secondary school; geophysics. “It’s ready to go. The combination of a model and a simulation makes the concept fairly modern. The fact that it is based on research is a good example of how science can be used for educational purposes.”