Feb 242011
 
Authors: Vashti Batjargal

Brian Jones thinks that the Little Shop of Physics would not be possible at any other school.

And this Saturday at its annual open house, the CSU community can learn why.

“I couldn’t have got this off the ground at CU-Boulder. People at CSU understand that we have this mission to help the public,” said Jones, director of the Little Shop of Physics and a CSU physics instructor. “People get that this is important and are willing to let me wear tie-dye and cruise around the state.”

The Little Shop of Physics began in 1990 at the Physics Bowl, which was held at CSU for high school students. When students were eliminated from the bowl, they were dismissed to an area that held a dozen physics demonstrations for them to peruse.

While running these demonstrations at the physics bowl, Jones received his first invitation to speak at Windsor Middle School as a guest speaker.

“I did a college lecture for eighth grade students and it was awful,” Jones said. “They didn’t take anything away from it. They were completely disengaged.”

As Jones struggled in how to relay key physics concepts to a group of antsy preteens he continued his work on demonstrations at the bowl before realizing to merge the two.

These physics demonstrations, coordinated by Jones, grew into the Little Shop of Physics, a fully funded, well-known group focusing as much on teaching kids as it is about teaching teachers.

From setting up new demonstrations, throwing ideas around at their weekly meetings to standing in front of packed auditoriums across Colorado and into part of Wyoming, 10 paid undergraduate interns and Little Shop staff largely conduct the weekly presentations, as Jones focuses his attention on classes and other projects.

Little Shop currently estimates it has reached 250,000 kids through their Open House every year and in what they refer to as their “traveling road shop,” visiting 40 schools throughout the year.

Add in the podcasts titled “EveryDay Science” and “Science it Up” and the 11 years on Poudre School District’s Channel 10 and it’s estimated that its audience increases by another 250,000 to reach half a million.

“Every time I kind of realized that the less I talked and the more that they were able to do things, the better it was,” Jones said.

Staff writer Vashti Batjargal can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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