Physical Science 121

PHSC 121:122

Catalog Entry

PHSC 121:122. Physical Science Processes
Five hours class time per week (4:4).

Class used as laboratory, lecture, recitation, individual study. Opportunities to develop concepts and competencies in the processes of physical science.

Detailed Description of Content of Course

In order to form a content framework for a multidiscipline course such as physical science, the major topics given below are covered. Basic concepts have been selected from physics, chemistry, and astronomy. The concepts selected are thought to be relevant to the student's environment and experience.

    * PHSC 121. Measurement, motion, force and motion, work and energy, temperature and heat, waves, electricity and magnetism, atomic physics, nuclear physics
    * PHSC 122. The periodic table, compounds and molecules, chemical principles, chemical reactions, the solar system, position and time, the moon, the universe

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course contains an integrated laboratory experience in which the student must make decisions on his own, profit from his mistakes, and retrace his steps if necessary. In fact, most of the course work takes place in the laboratory. A combined classroom and laboratory allows the class to move freely from lecture to discussion to experiment in any order whenever it appears desirable. Students usually work in pairs. They are encouraged to experiment freely and exercise their ingenuity. Lecturing is often limited to the pulling together of concepts and subject matter after the student has encountered them in the laboratory. Ample opportunity for discussion is allowed.

Goals and Objectives of Course

The main goal of Physical Science Processes is to provide opportunities for students to develop competencies in the processes of science: classifying, observing, identifying variables, interpreting data, hypothesizing, designing experiments, and formulating models. The process emphasis is accomplished by giving students the opportunity to: Manipulate apparatus used in introductory physical science courses.


1. The uncertainty in measurement
2. The precision of balances.


1. The conservation of mass in ordinary chemical reactions
2. How relative solubility can be used to separate solutes
3. How the theory of matter has been changed to explain "new" facts
4. How the kinetic molecular theory of matter accounts for the properties of matter
5. That scientific laws are man-made
6. The factors affecting the period of a simple pendulum
7. The relationship among voltage, current, and resistance in a circuit
8. Energy conversion
9. Electromagnetic energy.


1. Volumes
2. Masses
3. Temperatures.


1. A simple balance
2. Graphs.

    * Extrapolate and interpolate from graphs.

Experimentally determine

1. The density of solids, liquids, and gases
2. Freezing points of matter
3. Boiling points of matter
4. Factors that influence the solubility of a gas
5. Factors that affect the solubility of solutes
6. The relative masses of the reactants and products in ordinary chemical reactions
7. How a solubility curve can be used to ascertain quantities of precipitation produced and dissolved under specified conditions
8. The relationship among pressure, temperature, and volume of a gas
9. Specific heat of some solids
10. Heat of reaction of some chemicals
11. Heat of solution of some chemicals
12. Heat of fusion of some chemicals
13. Some units of heat
14. Factors that influence acceleration of objects
15. Acceleration of freely falling bodies
16. Some properties of light
17. Some properties of sound.

    * Gather and organize data.
    * Identify variables and their relevance.


1. Data
2. Elements, compounds, and mixtures
3. Phases of matter.

    * Analyze data.
    * Synthesize data.
    * Interpret data.


1. Limitations
2. Assumptions.

    * Theorize from data.
    * Construct a theoretical model of matter including the size and mass of some atoms and molecules.


1. Among scientific theory, fact, and laws
2. Between mass and weight
3. Between heat and temperature

Assessment Measures

Students are given three major (one hour, 15 minutes) examinations and a final examination. Frequent short quizzes dealing with the most recently studied concepts are given. Quizzes and examinations emphasize science problem solving and the use of process skills (e.g. measurement) in the solution of problems.

Occasionally students are required to write a short paper on a special topic or make an oral presentation dealing with an important concept. Simple laboratory reports or graphs are required at the conclusion of some experiments, but formal reports are usually not required. These laboratory reports and direct observation by the instructor are used to assess student's lab skills.

Other Course Information


Review and Approval

September 24, 2001 - Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair