On March 8, all students enrolled in either Physics or U.S. History courses departed from their typical Thursday schedules on a field trip to tour the Museum of Science and Industry. At the museum, the students explored a number of exciting and enriching exhibits.
First, students visited “Science Storms,” where they saw firsthand physics’ applications in the real world—they stood inside of a 40-foot tornado, raced solar-powered cars and watched a large-scale Newton’s Cradle, which displayed concepts, like conservation of momentum, they’d learned about in the classroom. Then the group walked through the “Turn Back the Clock” exhibit, which explained nuclear history and the role the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has played in educating the public on nuclear technology. Experiencing this exhibit provided more depth to the roundtable debate project that physics students recently completed, in which they argued a position regarding either American deterrence or cooperation to avoid nuclear war, or the pros and cons of expanding nuclear energy to benefit the environment. Last, students went to the “Extreme Ice” exhibit, which used extraordinary images and videos to communicate the effect of climate change on glaciers over time.
After departing from the Museum of Science and Industry, students went to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, where they listened to debates similar to the roundtables they had previously engaged in, but this time by college students. The first argument was that the U.S. must increase international cooperation and reduce its nuclear arsenal, and the presenters emphasized that peace relied on leaders’ rational decision-making, which isn’t necessarily a guarantee in the long run. Then students heard the opposing position, which was in support of deterrence. The presenters pointed out that the fear of the consequences of a nuclear attack was strong enough to prevent countries from initiating nuclear war. After a brief intermission, students watched the debate on nuclear energy. The pro side articulated nuclear energy is essential to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, while the con side warned of the dangers of nuclear waste and accidents and explained the inseparability of nuclear energy from weapons.
Overall, they day was a valuable experience that allowed students to expand their knowledge of topics discussed in the classroom, as well as learn about new concepts and ideas.