AAPT Statement on Physics First

The following statement was adopted by the Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers at its meeting in College Park, MD, April 13, 2002.


The Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recognizes that teaching physics to students early in their high school education is an important and useful way to bring physics to a significantly larger number of students than has been customary. This approach—which we call “Physics First”—has the potential to advance more substantially the AAPT’s goal of Physics for All, as well as to lay the foundation for more advanced high school courses in chemistry, biology or physics.

We believe the following actions are necessary to have useful and successful Physics First programs:

  • Consultation between administrators and teachers in choosing the content and level of Physics First courses. In this way, the choices can be guided by the teachers’ familiarity with their students’ capabilities.
  • Development of materials and pedagogy appropriate to the mathematical preparation and cognitive development of Physics First students. They will be appreciably younger than students in traditional high school physics courses.
  • Discussion of the level, content, and purposes of Physics First with parents and other concerned members of the local community.
  • Provision of training and workshops to help teachers develop and teach Physics First.
  • Development of a Physics First curriculum that provides students an intellectual foundation for the study of chemistry and biology later in their high school education. To this end teachers of these different disciplines need to work together and coordinate their curricula.

The introduction of Physics First programs will create two especially pressing needs: a need for new teaching materials—textbooks, laboratories, assessment tools, etc.,—suitable for Physics First students—and a need to recruit teachers to teach Physics First. These people will need in-service training and support to help them become skilled and comfortable teaching Physics First curricula. Because in any given school sufficient teachers for mounting a Physics First program are likely to be obtained only by recruiting teachers from other science disciplines, it is urgent to provide these “crossover” teachers training and support for the teaching of physics in general and the teaching of Physics First in particular.


Recognizing that Physics First has the potential to foster greater scientific literacy and to help integrate physics, chemistry and biology syllabi, AAPT resolves:

  • To encourage Physics First programs to be developed taking the actions described above
  • To encourage the development of teaching materials that are useful and effective in teaching Physics First with particular attention to the need for cooperation and coordination of Physics First with chemistry and biology courses
  • To foster the development of workshops, in-service training and in-service support that will help teachers at all stages of their careers develop, implement and teach Physics First programs effectively. Particular attention will be given to encouraging and assisting teachers of other disciplines who become involved in teaching Physics First.

Physics First Resources