Every year a new group of students nervously enters the physics classroom. They know that the course is challenging but they are eager to get started. For me, the first week of school is all about setting the stage for the year. This is the time to set expectations and to create a classroom climate. I want my classroom to be a place where students feel comfortable to explore, where they are challenged to look at things in a different way, and where they collaborate with their peers effectively1 

To accomplish this, I open the school year with a lab. Students need to determine the value for π using two methods. The first method is to measure circles—something that most, if not all of them, have done in their math classes. The second method is to calculate π by throwing frozen hot dogs. While the lab is fairly simple,...

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