The Screeching Owl

Archive for December, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm

Posted by David Fisher on 9th December 2010


President Mythbuster.  That was the title used my Mythbusters this past Wednesday for their show which included a visit, albeit very brief, from President Obama.  The myth to be busted involved Archimedes Ray, or using the energy of the sun to potentially create some kind of light beam that could protect the planet and its inhabitants.  That’s the very short, and possibly a bit off base, summary of the show.

As I’m not an expert on how often the President appears on regularly scheduled television shows, save for late night talk shows, I though it very impressive that he appeared here.  I have heard that President Obama is a fan of Mythbusters, and like all of us who are fans of our shows, had the opportunity to meet the stars.  What I think is even more impressive was the reason that he appeared.  Reports indicated that the President’s appearance was meant to spur students to take a hard look at the sciences as potential areas of study or careers.  A very clever move, I might add.

I, too, have to admit that I really love this show!  The myths that are examined on a weekly basis really make me go hmmmm.  After all, where do they come up with this stuff?  Mentos and diet Coke, remote controlled buses and boats, explosives, crashes, robotics, lasers, travel to exotic places, pranks, and many more ‘experiments’ allow the viewing public to engage in scientific discovery.

As a kid, would you ever imagine that a teacher would assign a ‘reality show episode’ as homework?  Yeah, I didn’t think so…but in years’ past, I have.  Why, you may ask?  We truly are a media driven society.  If you’re reading this, you’ve just helped to prove my point.  We know there are lots of programs that just aren’t the time it takes to watch them, not that I’m being critical of any.  But, having an opportunity to watch a program where the introduction of each section starts with the preparation of an experiment through the scientific method really demonstrates that there is something worthwhile on television.  As each segment progresses, so does the the experiment, culminating with whether the myth is busted, confirmed, or plausible.  Sounds like a conclusion to me!

Science is filled with lots of things that make you go hmmm.  If it takes a television show that the President watches to engage our kids in saying hmmm at one thing or another, so what.  It just goes to prove that there’s more than one way to prove to our kids why science is important.

Let’s just hope they don’t try any of this at home.  We’re what you call experts!

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To Be Ten, Again

Posted by David Fisher on 1st December 2010

I have come to realize that I share some common experiences with my students.  For some of them, I am their first male elementary teacher outside of the fine arts areas.  The way that I run my classroom is sometimes very different than the classrooms of my female counterparts.  And, admittedly, I would prefer to use humor as much as possible during my lessons.

These admissions came out this week as I introduced The Great American Mail Race to my students.  I gave the students a copy of a letter that could be used as a model for them to follow at home.  The letter was addressed to the principal of my elementary school in Larchmont, NY.  Chatsworth Avenue School is one of those early 20th century school monstrosities.  It has multiple levels that spread out across an entire block in the middle of Larchmont.  There is no field, just a massive hard top area for all sports.  Their playground, although having been updated to today’s standards, still boasts a huge array of equipment including swings.  Many a Saturday afternoon was spent there in pick-up basketball, football, or street hockey.  Looking back, it’s a wonder that we all survived….

The real common denominator here is that my fifth grade teacher was also my first male teacher: Mr. Kurek.  Mr. Kurek had some odd ways about him.  He loved the windows open at all hours of the day, rain or shine, hot or cold.  He loved making us do things that provided shock and awe to our lives on a regular basis while instilling in us the importance of reading, math, writing, and science.  He didn’t expect perfection, yet he didn’t expect anything less than our very best.

One of my fondest memories of Mr. Kurek came about during the spring semester around our spring break time.  He told us that we were going to conduct an experiment at home during our breaks that would require very little effort on our parts, and promised that the result would be something unforgettable.  The directions were simple: Take slice of newly purchased Wonder Bread (am I dating myself here).  Place that slice of bread in a sandwich bag.  Put the sandwich bag in the very back of the refrigerator with a sign saying ‘Don’t Touch!’  Leave the bread there for the entire break, don’t open the bag, and bring it with you to school the Monday we return.  Simple, right?

The following Monday we returned to school with sandwich bags filled with various shades of green and black.  The Wonder Bread, once white bread, was white no more.  To finish off this experiment Mr. Kurek told us, the entire class at once, to open the bags, stick our noses in as far as we could get them, and to take a really deep breath.

While we rushed for the open windows to clear our lungs of that foul smelling bread, Mr. Kurek sat at his desk enjoying every minute or our pain, shock, and awe.  We did ask if he was trying to kill us, of course, to which he told us not at all.  The point, we asked. Discovery, he told us!  Mr. Kurek proceeded to spend the rest of that week, and some of the weeks after, teaching us about some of the greatest discoveries that were found due to mistakes, errors, miscalculations, and the like.  We loved, or at least I did, the topic.  And, we were thoroughly pleased to never put our noses in places that noses do not belong.

Mr. Kurek would probably be surprised to have learned that I teach fifth grade.  He would probably enjoy doing some of the projects that we’ve done so far.  He would also like the way that my students banter and argue with me in the name of education.  He’d probably want the bread project brought back to life as well.

No need to worry about the bread project.  That was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Should you find moldy bread at your house, however, I had nothing to do with it!

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