Piner's Mars Simulation: A Plug

Subject: Piner's Mars Simulation: A Plug
Date: Sat, 5 Jul 1997 21:45:36 -0400 (EDT)

I'm a student at Piner High School in Santa Rosa, California.  The school is
divided into learning communities and this year my community, C-TEC
(science-based curriculum) with the help of mentors like Bob Albrecht,
participated in a two-week simulation on Mars exploration.  Regular classes
were suspended for those two weeks, and some called our efforts a waste of

But I'll tell you, today when Pathfinder touched down, it was so amazing to
be able to linguistically comprehend even the barest fraction of the physics
involved with the mission.  I had thought space-based engineering was
exclusive to an ingenious faction of society to which I don't belong.  I had
no idea that creative thinking and new ideas were as much an essential part
of the process as extensive knowledge of physics.  There was actually a pole
in my seventh grade science class in which a teacher asked how many students
thought that physics was related to space exploration.  I didn't raise my
hand.  I had been "taught" by my english-major mother that physics was just a
bunch of pullies and levers.  

The problem is not that we kids don't want to learn science or that we find
it boring, it's that we don't have the confidence in science that we have in,
say, english and history -- subjects to which we are exposed thrugh
discussion every day.  We can turn on the TV and Walter Cronkite will explain
for us the causes of the Cold War.  How often can a child turn on the TV and
learn about how an airplane flies?  We don't understand it automatically, and
consequently we tend to give up on science more easily.  Don't let us take
the back door out.  Talk to us about science.  We learn through reading and
discussion.  Give us material to read, discuss science with us.

If anyone has any suggestions about how to submerge yourself in science at
the high school level (emphasis on physics) when your over-weening intuition
and, unfortunately, thourougly-humanities-genes aren't acting in your favor,
I really would be grateful for you to back channel suggestions.  Thanks.

Mariah MacDonald
Piner High School