When Anatoliy Glushchenko took his daughter to her first day of middle school, he was surprised, and a little horrified, to learn that her school did not offer physics in the sixth grade. Glushchenko, who was born and raised in Ukraine, is an applied physicist and professor in the Department of Physics and Energy Science at the University of Colorado. His own instruction in the subject began at a young age.
After his initial shock, Glushchenko did some research and discovered that it is not unusual for students in the US to receive minimal physics instruction in middle school. It doesn’t get much better from there—physics is not required at all in US high schools.
Certain that his daughter and all American students deserve better physics education, Glushchenko created a “game-changing” new program called Physics in a Box through an organization he founded called Physical Science Research Associates, which goes by Physcira.
Today, Physcira offers four different Physics in a Box options that each contain 100 experiments centered around specific topics: mechanics, optics, thermal, and electricity and magnetism. The Morgridge Family Foundation first invested in Physics in a Box in 2022 on behalf of Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md. The success of the program there led to another grant in 2023—a multi-year, $860,000 investment that will bring Physics in a Box to three DSST public charter schools across the Denver metro area.
“We have witnessed first-hand the power of STEM education to open new possibilities for students,” said Carrie Morgridge, co-founder of the Morgridge Family Foundation. “We share Anatoliy’s vision to bring this revolutionary physics curriculum to schools across the country, including our hometown of Denver.
The idea behind Physics in a Box is simple: bring a proven, classical physics curriculum to US classrooms, but with a unique, hands-on approach. The curriculum was developed based on Glushchenko’s own physics education and his experience as a teacher across Asia and Europe, including in countries such as Germany and Japan that produce a disproportionate number of engineers and other STEM professionals.
Glushchenko is quick to note, though, that Physics in a Box is not just “another STEM solution.” Physcira adapted existing programs to fit within the US education system and meet its needs. The boxes provide teachers with all the tools and materials they need to teach the curriculum, even offering weekly professional development during the school year for educators to better understand the content and methodology. The boxes are designed to be implemented quickly and easily. The curriculum exceeds current K–12 science content standards.
Since 2017, Physics in a Box has been delivered to students in school districts in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Where the curriculum has been in place the longest, the results are undeniable. In Seminole County—the 13th most populous county in Florida, located in the greater Orlando area—interest in high school-level physics classes skyrocketed among middle schoolers who were taught with Physics in a Box. As of 2020, Seminole County led the entire state of Florida in middle schoolers intending to take high school physics, showing more than twice the level of interest as the next highest county.
By increasing students’ interest in physics and confidence in their math and science skills as a whole, Physics in a Box seeks to ultimately grow the quantity and quality of the STEM workforce in the US. The data shows that starts with early, high-quality physics education.