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The CALVIN Project
Science as a Verb
by Bill McWeeny
T
odd Nelson, the principal of the
Adams School where I teach in Cas-
tine, Maine, is a wonderful and thought-
ful writer. In his latest column in Middle
Link,
1
“The Learning Curve,” he argues,
“‘School’ is a verb.” I know that science is
a verb. The people who taught me science
certainly considered what they were doing
to be sciencing. When I was a student, our
teachers arranged activities such as field
trips, speakers, science fairs, and science
clubs. We were always exploring science
through some kind of activity.
Inspiration for active science
The Calvineers on a field
a tab and out came a package of black trip on the Bay of Fundy
I fondly remember one field trip my paper. He quickly put the package under
eighth-grade science teacher, Murray his jacket and up into his armpit. We all
Hoy, took us on. Mr. Hoy had just pro- thought he was crazy but he explained
cured a three-foot concave mirror from that the chemical process needed a critical
army surplus and a brand new camera. He temperature in order to work. About two
announced that he would set up the “tele- minutes later we were looking at a picture
scope” at 12:00 AM one night in the mid- of the moon. That night we were scientists, That night we were
dle of January. Any students who wanted viewing an ancient process with modern
scientists, viewing
to meet him at the Blue Hill reservation, technology, actively engaged in science.
in Quincy, Massachusetts, could view the When I think back to that single night I
an ancient process
full moon and take pictures of it with him. know I learned more science than I could
with modern
My dad and I drove to the designated have in a month of classroom assignments. technology.
spot and sure enough there was Mr. Hoy
adjusting the mirror that was simply sit-
ting on the ground. When you stood in
The Animaineacs
the correct position the light rays from
the moon entered the mirror and were It is only natural that my teaching would
focused at a point that gave an unbeliev- include activities similar to the ones that
able image. right in front of us, just a made an impression on me when I was a
few inches away was an incredible “three student. My latest and perhaps best exam-
dimensional” miniature moon. The image ple of teaching science actively is The
appeared so real that we all tried to pick it Calvin Project. The Project began when a
up in our hands, but to no avail. The image group of students formed an animal rights
was simply that, an image. yet it was far club that I volunteered to advise. The
more than that. We could bend down and small group of students began by help-
inspect the moon like never before. ing local animal shelters. Soon it became
Soon, Mr. Hoy took out a brand new apparent to me that the “Animaineacs” had
Polaroid Land camera, focused it on the a lot of enthusiasm and energy and needed
image and snapped a picture. He pulled a bigger project. At that time I shared my
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