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Social Capital
Passion-Fueled Learning
I sent out a short email to science teachers asking what fun projects were going on in their classes this week hoping to catch one that would make for an interesting blog topic on Proctor’s science curriculum. Within minutes I received emails back from five different teachers highlighting the following projects taking place this week in their classes:
  • Zoology students traveling to the New England Aquarium to study marine biology Thursday
  • Physics classes studying ballistics by using a potato cannon in Shirley Room 21
  • Wildlife Science students snowshoeing into Proctor’s woodlot to study a recent white-tailed deer kill and then tracking wildlife tracks
  • Forestry students doing timber inventories on their land plots in the Proctor woodlot
  • Chemistry classes extracting silver from a silver nitrate solution using copper wiring
  • Forensic students completing a blood-spatter lab 
Needless to say, my plan for this blog evolved from an in-depth look at one class to a sampling of mid-winter science activities.

After eight years of teaching at Proctor, I should not be surprised by the amount of hands-on, experiential learning taking place in Proctor’s classrooms. However, this window into the science department gave me pause. Perhaps I am just in awe of different the experience of the students here is from my own high school experience. Maybe I am just jealous that I do not have the opportunity to take these classes myself, but mostly, I am impressed with my colleagues' creativity and passion to teach the subjects they love and the impact this excitement has on student learning. 

Anyone who has taken physics with Josh Norris ‘92 and shot potatoes out of a cannon making what he calls “instant mashies” on the back wall of the classroom knows that Josh is having just as much fun teaching ballistics as his students are learning the concept. Sarah McIntyre ‘90 brings with her so much energy to her Zoology trip to the New England Aquarium that her students can’t help but share her love for the subject matter and dive (no pun intended) into their study of marine biology. 

The same can be said for every teacher at Proctor. This passion-fueled teaching is one of the intangibles of a Proctor education that students may not fully appreciate until they are enrolled in classes here. Teachers are given significant freedom to develop their curriculum, and because of that freedom, interesting, applicable, and engaging courses evolve.

Whether it is Ian Hamlet teaching you how to extract silver from a solution using copper wiring or David Pilla walking through the woodlot with you to study a deer carcass, teacher enthusiasm for subject matter is a catalyst for student engagement. We know once students are engaged, the depth of their learning increases significantly. Who wouldn’t want to learn (or teach) in this type of environment?

Many thanks to Chuck Will for the pictures in this blog and to the Science Department for sharing your week with us!
A quick survey of science teachers this week showcased the diversity of hands-on, project-based learning taking place in Proctor's classrooms.
When teachers are passionate about the subjects they teach, their enthusiasm is infectious.
Who wouldn't get excited about dissecting a recent white-tailed deer kill when you've snowshoed through the woods to find the carcass with your teacher?
An educational model based on experiential learning creates incredibly engaging learning for students and teachers.