History of AAPT — Joint Activities

Formation of the Education and Manpower Division of AIP, with which AAPT carried out a number of joint projects, was recommended by a conference held in August 1956, sponsored by both AIP and AAPT and supported by the Fund for the Advancement of Education. The division’s purpose was to extend and broaden efforts toward the improvement of physics education at all levels and to help cope with the shortages of technical personnel and of qualified physics teachers. With the aid of grants from several agencies, including the Ford Foundation and NSF, AIP had two staff physicists working on educational projects in 1957: W.C. Kelly (University of Pittsburgh) and Grant O. Gale (Grinnell College). A formal education department headed by W.C. Kelly was established by AIP in 1958.

In addition to the work on apparatus and on physics buildings, already noted, joint endeavors included the Visiting Scientist Program for both colleges and high schools. This program was proposed in 1956 and got under way in 1957 with NSF support. Another joint project was the Regional Counselor Program inaugurated in 1961 and directed by W.C. Kelly. Its purpose was to improve physics education in high schools, with attention to local problems. W.C. Kelly remained as director of the division until the end of 1965, and in September 1966 Arnold Strassenburg became director. After July 1971 the Education and Manpower Divisions became separate entities, and some programs were terminated. The Manpower Division, divided in 1987 into an Education and Employment Division and the Career Placement Division, is an AIP activity carried out for the benefit of all member societies.

In 1984 AIP created the Educational Policy Committee, charged with advising the Governing Board of AIP on matters pertaining to educational policy. The first chair was Robert Bauman, University of Alabama-Birmingham, and he was succeeded by Joe P. Meyer of Oak Parkand River Forest High School in the Chicago area. Both had served as President of AAPT. AIP received two major bequests, the Gemant bequest and the Meggars bequest, which stipulated that they were to be used for educational purposes. Planning for these awards consumed much of the first two years of operation of the committee. AAPT has collaborated with AIP Educational Statistics Division, which has administered and interpreted three surveys of high school physics teachers.

The AIP Educational Policy Committee was replaced by two committees. In October of 1988, the Committee on Physics Education was charged to provide review, advice, and recommendations concerning physics education programs at AIP, and to foster cooperation in physics education programs among the member societies. It was composed of 12 members: two from AAPT and APS and one from each of the other eight member societies. Also, the Committee on Physics Programs Policy was formed and charged to provide review, advice, and recommendations concerning physics branch activities at AIP.

In 1988, AIP's Education Division was relocated from New York to Washington, DC. The Division is responsible for the Society of Physics Students, Sigma Pi Sigma, and several other student programs and educational activities.

An AIP service that began about 1959 as a joint AIP-AAPT venture is the preparation of an “academic directory”—formally the Directory of Physics & Astronomy Faculties in North American Colleges and Universities. The AAPT Membership Committee promoted the publication and made use of it for recruitment of members. Currently the directory is published under the name Directory of Physics, Astronomy & Geophysics Staff.

In December 1995 the Campaign for Physics, a joint effort of APS and AAPT designed to raise funds to support educational activities of the two societies, was announced. At a November 22, 1997 victory celebration held in San Francisco, CA, AAPT and APS announced that the Campaign had reached its $5 million funding goal. The funds saw use in the launch and expansion of five science education programs, two of which have been administered by AAPT. The first AAPT program, the Physical Science Resource Center (PSRC) was launched in August 1997. PSRC provides resources and links to resources for the entire spectrum of physics and physical science teachers, grades K-16. The subject areas are arranged under the following categories: curriculum, 21st Century Classrooms, Teaching Communities, Careers, The Resource Center, Evaluation Instruments, Demos and Activities, What’s New, and What’s Old. In addition, the site features a Demo of the Week, Problem of the Week, and a How Things Work page. In July 1998, an online job site, the Science Job Market, was added.  The PSRC eventually became a significant initiating portion of the ComPADRE Digital Library site as supported by the National Science Foundation National Science Digital Library program.

The second AAPT program to receive support from the Campaign was the Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) program. The goal of the PTRA program is to select, train, and support experienced physics teachers who serve as mentors to less experienced physics teachers from their communities. The Campaign provided funds to support initiation of PTRA workshops urban and rural areas of the United States. This funding is being augmented by a grant from the National Science Foundation.  PTRA was marked by considerable success, and it is described further in the section of this AAPT History dealing with Teacher Education.

In 1990 the APS Council formed the APS Forum on Education (FEd). AAPT was invited to participate by nominating AAPT members to the Executive Committee of the Forum. Forum membership is open only to APS members. Many AAPT members who are also members of APS have joined and many have become leaders of FEd.