Summer Research Program for Secondary Science Teachers

Neil Farley

The Bronx High School of Science, Bronx, NY

August 20, 1998

Lesson Plan

Below is a lesson plan which I plan to use for my 11th grade Regents physics class at The Bronx High School of Science. Bronx Science is a public high school for gifted and talented students. Students are admitted based on proficiency in a written examination.

This lesson will make use of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s web site called IPPEX or Internet Plasma Physics Experience. IPPEX can be found at the following URL.


How may a Tokamak use microwave to ionize plasma?


Using microwave oven, produce ball lightning or plasma balls. For instructions see:

[Teaching Standard D- Make accessible science materials and technological resources]

Discuss what the glowing balls are made of. Elicit that they are made of the same thing that lightning is made of.


1. Using IPPEX slide show, elicit the need for alternate energy sources.

2. Discuss current alternate energy sources (e.g. solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear fission) and have students work in groups listing the pros and cons of each example. [9-12 Content Standard F- Natural resources]

3. Elicit nuclear fusion as an alternate energy source.

4. Explain fusion and a Tokamak using IPPEX. Have students explore various simulation modules including Virtual Tokamak and Fusion Data Analysis.

5. Using a photometer, gas tube and a microwave oven, have students derive a relation ship between microwave power and plasma brightness or density.

6. Explain the operation of a microwave oven and how microwaves heat food. [9-12 Content Standard E- Understandings about science and technology]

7. Use IPPEX "Ask the Scientist" module to email questions to actual Princeton University scientists or alternately have a video conference with Columbia Plasma Physics lab professors or grad students. [Teaching Standard D- Identify/use resources outside the school]


1. Why is fusion important?

2. How do microwaves cook food?

3. How can microwave be used to heat gas?

4. What happens to gas when it gets very hot?

5. How can this be used in a Tokamak?

[Teaching Standard B- Orchestrate scientific discourse]


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