Honors Physics is the advanced physics class we offer to 12th graders who are accepted into the honors class. It contains more rigorous math and more modern physics than the regular physics curriculum. It is not calculus-based. 

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Year Plan for Honors Physics

Year-long Science Practice Standards

Term 1

(September to mid-November - 10 weeks)



Term 2

(mid-November to end of January - 10 weeks)



Term 3

(February - mid-April, 10 weeks)



Term 4

(mid- April - May, 6 weeks)

Year-Long Science Practice Standards

P1: Scientific Investigations

Ability to formulate a testable question and hypothesis.  Able to design and carry out a lab procedure safely that produces data to support or refute your hypothesis.

P2: Scientific Analysis

Analyze data to determine relationships between experimental variables. Calculate accuracy and precision of data and perform basic statistical procedures to analyze the center and spread of data. Determine error in data and be able to accurately assess data for trends. Be able to relate experimental data to larger scientific explanations about the world.

P3: Scientific Research

Critically read scientific literature to determine the central ideas or conclusions. Gather, read, and evaluate information from multiple sources, assessing the validity and usefulness of each source.

P4: Scientific Communication

Be able to represent, simplify, and communicate scientific ideas and information accurately in a variety of ways (eg. models, illustrations, presentations, etc.).

P5: Designing Solutions

Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

P6: Material Properties

Distinguish between the physical properties of materials including tensile strength, compression strength, shear strength, density, and elasticity and use these properties to select appropriate materials for structures. MA Tech 2.1, MA Tech 2.2, NGSS HS-PS2-6

P7: Minimizing Force

Apply scientific and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on an object during a collision. MA Phys 1.4, MA Phys 2.5, NGSS HS-PS2-2, NGSS HS-P2-3

Year-Long Literacy Standards

L1 – Ideas

Clearly addresses the question, fully supports answer with relevant, correct information, and utilizes strong examples.

L2 – Organization

Work is effectively organized. Communication of ideas is clear and correct.

L3 – Tone

Consistently maintains a tone that is appropriate for the audience, purpose and subject matter. No errors in language usage are evident.

L4 – Word Choice

Consistently and correctly uses vocabulary appropriate to the subject area. Varies word choice and sentence structure.

L5 – Conventions

Consistently uses standard English grammar, spelling and punctuation. Few errors are evident.


Fundamental Math Skills

M1: Metric System

Use appropriate metric/standard international (SI) units of measurement. This includes: mass (kg), length (m), time (s), force (N), speed (m/s), acceleration (m/s2), momentum (Ns), work and energy (J), power (W), electric current (A), electric voltage (V), and electric resistance (Ω). MA Math

M2: Unit Conversion

Convert between units when appropriate (ex: centimeters to meters). MA Math

M3: Significant Figures

Determine and use the appropriate number of significant figures when measuring and recording data. MA Math

M4: Algebraic Problem Solving

Apply techniques of algebra to represent and solve scientific problems. MA Math, NGSS P5

M5: Scientific Notation

Be able to solve math problems using scientific notation.


Unit One: What is Motion?

1.1 Linear Motion

Distinguish between distance, displacement, speed, velocity, and acceleration. Be able to calculate both velocity and acceleration. Create and interpret graphs of 1-dimensional motion, such as position vs. time, distance vs. time, speed vs. time, velocity vs. time, and acceleration vs. time where acceleration is constant. MA Phys 1.2, MA Phys 1.3

1.2 Vectors

Compare and contrast vector quantities (e.g., displacement, velocity, acceleration, or force) and scalar quantities (e.g., distance, speed, energy, or mass). Be able to perform basic mathematical operations with vector quantities and calculate net vectors. MA Phys 1.1

1.3 Momentum and Inertia

Calculate the momentum of an object given its mass and velocity. Know that the momentum of a system does not change when there is no net force on the system. Define the concept of inertia and apply Newton’s 1st Law (that objects at rest will stay at rest and objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by a net force.) Be able to calculate the force on an object if you know its change in momentum. MA Phys 1.4, MA Phys 2.5

1.4 Acceleration and Forces

Be able to draw force diagrams and determine net force on an object. Be able to distinguish between and calculate different common forces including: weight/gravitational force, normal force, tension, spring force, electromagnetic force and friction. Distinguish between static and kinetic friction and calculate it using the friction coefficient. Be able to describe how Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (F =ma) describes the mathematical relationship between force, mass and acceleration of an object and be able to apply it in order to calculate the forces applied to objects. MA Phys 1.4, NGSS HS-PS2-1, MA Phys 1.5, MA Phys 1.6

1.5 Collisions, Explosions and Newton’s Third Law

Mathematically interpret collisions and explosions based on the law of conservation of momentum. Be able to apply Newton’s 3rd Law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) in order to calculate forces between interacting objects.

1.6 Kinematics

Be able to mathematically relate time, displacement, and initial and final velocity when acceleration is constant.

1.7 Projectiles

Be able to mathematically predict the motion of projectiles.

1.8 Circular Motion

Describe the forces involved in circular motion and understand how these forces govern objects in orbit. MA Phys 1.8

1.9 Harmonic Motion

Recognize examples of simple harmonic motion and be able to determine the period, frequency and amplitude of a simple harmonic motion system. Understand how restoring force is involved in harmonic motion and be able to apply Hooke’s Law to spring motion. MA Phys 4.1

1.10 Waves

Recognize that waves represent systems of harmonic motion that travel through media, distinguish between and give examples of mechanical and electromagnetic waves. Be able to distinguish between transverse and longitudinal waves. Be able to define the velocity, frequency, wavelength, amplitude, and period of a wave and express the relationship between them mathematically. MA Phys 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.5

1.11 Resonance, Standing Waves and Sound

Understand that resonance is the tendency of materials to oscillate at particular frequencies. Be able to mathematically describe standing waves and harmonics. Understand that sound is a longitudinal wave that travels through waves of pressure in a medium. Understand how frequency and amplitude of a sound wave translate to pitch and loudness of sound. Be able to explain the apparent change in frequency of waves due to the motion of the source or the receiver using the Doppler Effect. MA Phys 4.6

Unit Two: What is Light?

2.1 Light and Vision

Recognize that electromagnetic waves are transverse waves that travel at the speed of light through a vacuum. Be able to describe the electromagnetic spectrum in terms of frequency and wavelength, and identify the locations of radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays on the spectrum. Be able to describe how the human eye interprets electromagnetic signals into the sense of sight. MA Phys 6.1 and 6.2


2.2 Wave-Particle Duality

Describe the evidence that electromagnetic radiation can be described by either a wave model or a particle model, and demonstrate that for some situations one model is more useful than the other.  Understand that wave-particle duality can apply to particles with mass also and understand how to find the DeBroglie wavelength of a moving object.


2.3 Speed of Light

Know that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant in all frames of reference. Understand what a light-year is and be able to calculate the time it takes light to cross different distances. Be able to explain the significance of the Michelson-Morley experiment and how it showed that the speed of light is constant. Be able to identify what particles travel at the speed of light (all electromagnetic radiation, any massless particle).






Unit Three: What is Time? What is Space? What is Space-time?


3.1 Special Theory of Relativity

Understand that all motion is relative. You can only describe motion be comparing two bodies to one another. Understand that as a fast moving object travels past an observer, it will appear to be shorter in the direction of motion, it will appear to have more mass than it would at rest, and time will appear to be passing slower on the fast moving object to the stationary observer. Be able to use Lorentz transformations to calculate time dilation, length contraction, and mass increase when traveling close to the speed of light. Understand that it is impossible for two people moving at different speeds to agree whether the same events happened at the same time.  Recognize that special relativity deals only with constant, uniform linear motion.


3.2 Planetary Motion and Newtonian Gravity

Understand the forces governing the movement of planets in our solar system and the history of the heliocentric theory. Describe Newton’s law of universal gravitation in terms of the attraction between two objects, their masses, and the distance between them and use it to predict the gravitational force between two objects. MA Phys 1.7, MA Earth 1.5 and 4.2, NGSS HS-PS2-4


3.3 General Relativity

Understand how Einstein’s concept of gravity differs from Newton’s. Acceleration is the same thing as gravity. A large mass “bends” space-time. The larger the mass, the more it bends. Time moves slower in a stronger gravitational field or when experiencing more acceleration. Understand that time is relative. Understand that time is a dimension like space. Can only move through time in one direction in the order of decreasing entropy.


3.4 The Universe

Explain the Big Bang Theory and discuss the evidence that supports it, such as background radiation and relativistic Doppler effect (i.e., “red shift”). Understand the known size, structure, and age of the Universe. Explain how the Sun, Earth, and solar system formed from a nebula of dust and gas in a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy about 4.6 billion years ago. MA Earth 4.1 and 4.3


3.5 Time Travel, Black Holes and Interstellar Travel

Be able to distinguish between real science and science fiction.  Discuss the difficulties and possibilities facing humans engaging in space travel.

Unit Four: What is Energy?


4.1 Work, Power and Efficiency

Define work as the energy used to exert an amount of force over a distance and be able to calculate work done on an object. Define power as work done per unit time and be able to calculate the power of a machine. Be able to calculate the efficiency of a machine given work input and work output. MA Phys 2.4, MA Phys 2.3


4.2 Energy

Be able to distinguish between and calculate kinetic and potential energy. Distinguish between different forms of energy including mechanical energy, chemical energy, thermal energy, radiant energy, and nuclear energy and provide examples of how energy can be converted between forms. Understand that energy of a closed system cannot change. Energy will only transfer from one form to another.  MA Phys 2.2, NGSS HS-PS3-2, MA Phys 2.1, NGSS HS-PS3-1


4.3 Thermal Energy

Understand that temperature is a measure of the average molecular kinetic energy of a substance. Understand that heat energy will always move from a higher temperature to a lower temperature through convection, conduction or radiation. Recognize that energy is absorbed when a substance changes from a solid to a liquid to a gas, and that energy is released when a substance changes from a gas to a liquid to a solid. Explain the relationships among temperature changes in a substance, the amount of heat transferred, the amount (mass) of the substance, and the specific heat of the substance. MA Phys 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4


4.4 Laws of Thermodynamics

Understand the four laws of thermodynamics and the concept of entropy. Entropy is the measure of disorder in a system.


4.5 Energy-Mass Equivalence

Understand that mass is concentrated energy. Be able to use the equation  E=mc2 to mathematically describe between mass and energy. Know that mass-energy is always conserved and that the only way to convert mass completely into energy is in an antimatter collision.