Conceptual Physics – Year-long Course


    “Having heard wonderful things about Athena’s from many parents, my husband and I had great expectations when we signed up our nine-year-old daughter for her first class: Physics, taught by Dr Valerie Nandor. I’m happy and grateful that our expectations were utterly exceeded. Our daughter not only learned an exciting amount of physics (and math) each week, but also thoroughly enjoyed herself. She looked forward to the online class and this inspired her to do the homework, both the required assignments and many of the extra learning options that Dr. Nandor thoughtfully made available….(continued below).” ~Parent A.A.


    Class Full

    Roller coaster illustrating physics for the Physics course at Athena's Advanced Academy
    InstructorDr. Valerie Nandor
    Content LevelsGrades 7-8 • Junior High
    Grades 9-10 • Lower High School
    Course Length32 Weeks - Year-long
    Live Webinars Held OnTuesdays, 3:00 - 3:50 PM Pacific - 8/15/23 - 5/18/24

    This year-long course opens by investigating the relationships between force, mass, gravity, and motion (expressed in Newton’s three laws) and the forms and transformations of energy (following the fundamental principle of Conservation of Energy).  These themes will continue to guide us throughout the year as we apply our understanding of forces and energy to thermodynamics, electricity, waves, sound, light, and atomic theory.

    The basic principles of physics studied in this course form a conceptual framework for later, more in-depth studies.

    Throughout the year, we seek to understand the important features of scientific inquire, emphasizing the importance of using data as evidence to support scientific arguments and highlighting the role of curiosity, openness, and skepticism in science.

    Note to parents:

    • This course is closely related to the physics components of physical science course for junior high and lower high school students. However, since the course is designed and paced for gifted learners, the topics are extended to include an introduction to modern physics – a week each on quantum theory, nuclear physics, particle physics, and relativity.
    • This class is not designed as the physics course that is traditionally studied by upper high school students.
    • A supplemental calculations webinar is available for students who want to work on physics calculations and develop a deeper understanding of the equations presented in the main physics webinar. Each 25-minute Problem Solving for Conceptual Physics webinar will be held immediately following a Physics webinar. The dates of the webinars (there are eight each semester) are selected to coordinate with the physics topics and will be posted at the beginning of the semester.
    • Textbook: Conceptual Physics, Hewitt, 10th edition. ISBN-13: 978-0805393750   ISBN-10: 0805393757

    Testimonial continued:

    “…(As a former tutor at Oxford myself, I’m particularly impressed by Dr. Nandor’s knowledge and by dedication to her students and their scientific and intellectual curiosity: on each topic, she arrayed a truly great range of extra materials online so that any student interested in learning more could make a deeply thorough exploration.) Because Dr. Nandor is so talented both in her subject and in the art of teaching, her online webinars are as compelling as gatherings in an in-person classroom. She makes her subject appealing and vivid and has a particularly admirable gift for enabling students of different ages and capabilities to advance at their own paces. Thank you, Dr. Nandor! And thank you, Athena’s Academy, for this and so many other wonderful classes!” ~Parent A.A.

    What to expect in the Required section in the classroom each week:

    • Writing and responding to posts (using at least three sentences).
    • One or two selected assignments, which rotates among reading, watching a video, hands-on activities, and on-line interactive simulations.
    • One activity to build connections between the current material and the topic which will be explored in the next webinar.
    • Opportunities for two presentations throughout the year.

    What to expect in the Highly Suggested & Optional sections in the classroom each week:

    • To excite learners and to add depth to the subject matter, curated resources, including websites & videos, are provided.
    • Hands-On Physics activity (lab exercise, demonstration, or design challenge).
    • Opportunities to check understanding through textbook homework, online quizzes, or short projects.
    • Exploratory readings, videos, and simulations on related topics and applications.
    • Occasional Minecraft™ assignments and programming challenges.

    What to expect during the weekly webinar:

    • Weekly webinars are 50 minutes long. Webinars are recorded and are available for students with schedule conflicts.
    • Primary instruction and guided discussions are provided during live webinars.
    • Active Participation (via the microphone and chat) in online class discussions.

    What to Expect During the School Year:

    • The framework of Newton’s Laws and Conservation of Energy developed in the first two months will be applied to other physics topics throughout the year.
    • Investigate relationships between force, mass, gravity, and motion.
    • Investigate the forms and transformations of energy.
    • Evaluate the importance of curiosity, honesty, openness, and skepticism in science.
    • Use tools, instruments, and technology to test, record, and organize data.
    • Communicate information clearly, using data as evidence to support scientific arguments, and demonstrating an ability to seek alternative explanations.
    • Understand important features of scientific inquiry: controlled conditions, critical assessment, and peer review and publication (transparency).
    • Consider modern physics, including nuclear physics and relativity. The last 7 weeks of the spring semester is an introduction to lots of fun topics!  We spend a week each on nuclear physics, particle physics, quantum theory, relativity – all at an introductory level.
    • Apply understanding of forces and energy transformations to electricity, magnetism, waves, sound, and light in the last 9 weeks of the spring semester.

    Before taking this course, students should be able to: 

    • Read non-fiction at a strong 7th grade level.
    • Basic math skills through an understanding of fractions is necessary. Simple algebraic manipulations and dimensional analysis will be introduced with the material.
    • This class is designed for students working in grades 7-10.

    Students should be willing to:

    • Actively participate (via the microphone) in the class discussion.
    • Encourage class discussion by adding their questions/ideas in the chat window during the webinar.
    • Respond with positive and encouraging comments on their classmates’ posts in the classroom forums.

    Required text and materials:

    • Conceptual Physics, Hewitt, 10th edition. ISBN-13: 978-0805393750   ISBN-10: 0805393757
    • Ability to view animations and interactive computer simulations.
    • Household materials for hands-on physics activities.


    • “I just wanted to say thank you so much for the immensely positive experience Connor’s had in your physics class this year. It was a great experience for him to be in a class for the first time where he could engage with the material and concepts in a way that challenged him and met his needs as well as his aptitudes. We never had that experience in a general education class as you might imagine. Occasionally, I would be with an ear shot of the class, and I always enjoyed hearing how you presented the material not only with such depth but also in a way that was truly engaging.” ~Parent Angela K.
    • “My daughter is taking physics, and it has been a game changer for her. This class has sparked her love of physics and increased her passion for learning. I really can’t thank you all enough.” ~Parent Kelly B.