Are we in Selma Alabama or Sandwich Massachusetts?

Let us all support innovation in the classroom
And stop acting like uneducated "know-nothings" out for a lynching party

By The Catman 

The Forestdale School in Sandwich is fortunate to have a fifth grade teacher and principal who try innovative instructional methods to make science instruction more "alive" to the ten and eleven year-olds in their school.

MyFoxBoston reports today that last Thursday a Forestdale teacher invited a Pathologist Assistant to make a presentation on cellular development to her students. According to a statement by the superintendent of schools, the presenter brought slides of organ tissue samples as well as bottled specimens of organs as well as zygote and human embryo development specimens, again to illustrate organ development.

What a splendid way to teach science to middle school students!

Unfortunately we seem to be on the way to a lynching party at tonight's school meeting at the Sandwich High School at 7PM.

Why? Because someone thinks their ten and eleven year-old young people should not see a human organ specimen or an embryo?

Surely this is the real thing that upset certain over-protective parents. The nonsense about the chemicals used to preserve the specimens is likely just another excuse to lynch the school professionals. Anybody over thirty handled bottled specimens in their school days, virtually all without incident or harm.

Does everybody remember when they were ten or eleven years old?

What is more real for a kid - seeing a plastic heart in a plastic model, looking at a picture in a book or seeing an actual heart in a specimen jar?

If you grew up in the late 1960's like I did, cellular development was taught in a series of silent filmstrips or by drawings on the blackboard. If one was extremely fortunate there might be a single microscope in the school with some dusty slides that allowed one to see cells.

Today the airwaves are full of procedural crime shows (such as the CSI franchise) and medical shows, both of which provide a tremendous amount of information about human biology though usually presented in the most graphic ways. Tying in to this, the idea of bringing a "real scientist" (Yes, we know this is a Pathologist Assistant - but what ten-year-old makes that distinction?) to talk to a class is a terrific way to hold the kids' attention.

As far as the specimens themselves... What is more real for a kid - seeing a plastic heart in a plastic model, looking at a picture in a book or seeing an actual heart in a specimen jar? To show the kids slides of the cells found in different organ tissue is an excellent way to illustrate the function of each organ.

All in all, this sounds like a wonderful way to make science lessons come alive to today's children. Indeed, I would have loved this kind of presentation when I was in the fifth grade!

So, for daring to innovate, it appears the teacher and principal may now be crucified. Their lynching in the press is already under way. Tonight the school community will have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue, as well.

Seriously? A community meeting because someone did a creative science lesson? What is this country coming to? We're not talking about sex education here, "sexting" or cyber-bullying. They've called a "community meeting" because someone did a hands-on science lesson.

If you support active, cooperative instruction of the sciences please contact the Sandwich School committee to send them a strong message.

I ask again, does anybody remember when they were in the fifth grade?

I remember our school taking a trip to Sturbridge Village, where the highlight of the day (to we ten-year-old boys) was when the farmer chopped off the head of a chicken. Everyone was curious about that! Why? Because we were ten-year-old boys!

How many readers remember the proverbial "poking with a stick" of some dead animal the neighborhood kids found by the roadside? Kids are curious about these things!

Any trip to even the driest of life science museums would expose children to at least the level of biology they saw in their Forestdale classroom.

Much has been said in the press about supporting our schools and the teachers who educate our children. While I am the first to look at schools and teachers with a critical eye - and don't even get me started on teachers' unions - I believe that this teacher and this principal in Sandwich deserve the unequivocal support of the public.

Let your voice be heard

Here on Cape Cod we are blessed with many excellent science communities - from Woods Hole Oceanographic, to the Museum of Natural History, the Center for Coastal Studies, the Audubon Sanctuary and the Cape Cod National Seashore. Our teachers should be trying to integrate the local science community with their instruction programs. Not only does this keep the kids' attention, it drives home to them the relevance of the science the school is trying to teach. After a press disaster such as this, I fear that these scientific groups might hesitate a bit before offering yet another school outreach experience.

If you support active, cooperative instruction of the sciences please contact the Sandwich School committee to send them a strong message. Contact information for the individual school committee members is available here. The chairman is Robert Simmons, email [email protected]

Let us all support innovation in the classroom!

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