Physics and Everyday Thinking

Physics and Everyday Thinking (formerly Physics for Elementary Teachers) (PET) is a one-semester curriculum designed in part for prospective or practicing elementary teachers. The course uses a student-oriented pedagogy with a content focus that aims to help students develop physics ideas included in the National Science Education Standards and the Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy. In addition to the physics content focus, there is also a unique Learning about Learning (LAL) component, which include activities designed to help students focus on the nature of science, on the learning processes of elementary school students, and on their own learning.

The PET curriculum has been taught at two-year and four-year institutions; has been adapted for a science methods course in schools of education; and can be offered as a workshop for practicing elementary teachers.  In addition, the ESET (Elementary Science and Everyday Thinking) set of activities have also been developed for elementary school teachers to use in their own classrooms.

Resources are available to help faculty implement PET in their classrooms and for staff development leaders to implement a PET workshop for practicing teachers. These resources include a DVD with a comprehensive set of resources for instructors, a web-based teacher guide, and introductory workshops at professional meetings. Physical science faculty may also want to take a look at the related PSET (Physical Science and Everyday Thinking) curriculum. Similar to PET in structure and pedagogy, PSET, which is also a one-semester course, includes both physics and chemistry content.

For an overview of the impact of the PET curriculum on instructors and students during its early years of implementation (including the field test stage, when the curriculum was still under development), please read the PET Final Evaluation Report (pdf).


Development of the PET curriculum has been  supported by the National Science Foundation Grant ESI-0096856. The PET curriculum, pedagogy and web-based professional development resources have been partially adapted from three other NSF-supported projects: The Constructing Physics Understanding (CPU) Project (NSF Grant ESI-9454341), the Constructing Ideas in Physical Science (CIPS) Project (NSF Grant ESI-9812299), and the CIPS Professional Development Project (NSF Grant ESI-0138900).