Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inspirational Summer Reading!

Just finished reading an inspiring book, given to me by a friend/colleague, entitled Faust in Copenhagen. Written by theoretical physicist Gino Segré, the book beautifully describes the fascinating story of the discussions responsible for the discovery of atomic structure and quantum mechanics in the early 1900s. The most amazing part of the book is the focus on the human side of science.

Yes, contrary to popular belief, scientists are in fact human! In Faust in Copenhagen, Segré describes the lives of seven (plus) scientists as they communicate and brainstorm with one another in magical ways, pondering the mysteries of physics. Picturing a group of seven musicians or poets or artists or writers discussing their subject seems so "normal," but the same image using scientists (or mathematicians) conjures up a very different mental picture, for some reason. After reading this book, however, you would be hard-pressed to decide in which profession these six men and one woman belong. They are theoretical and experimental physicists, to be certain. But they are incredibly zealous and articulate in their area of expertise, discussing the intricacies of that which excites and intellectually stimulates them with as much passion as a poet, as much rhythm as a musician, as much symbolism as a writer, and as much abstract thought as an artist. The description of their conversation makes me long to be in school again, having scholarly discussions with peers and professors on a regular basis about science and its relevance in our lives.

Faust in Copenhagen was inspirational for me as someone who enjoys science. But having just finished The Element, by Ken Robinson, I value it just as much from a teacher's perspective. Sir Robinson describes the phenomenal potential that exists when you find your element—the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together. These seven scientists certainly all allowed themselves the chance to follow this path. Because of this, they became the most influential physical scientists of the 20th century. Because they were allowed to follow their gift and passion, they literally changed the world. They actively worked at creating a progressive and constructive scientific community, led primarily by the outstanding teaching efforts of Niels Bohr. He did not allow politics, economics, or even personality conflicts get in the way of the progression of science. And Bohr sincerely cared about each scientist as a person, student, friend, helping out with whatever was needed in whatever manner he could.

I have so much more spinning in my head in terms of the connection I made between these two books. Community-building and discussion documentation and technology and personal connections, etc.  For now, I look forward to using these books as a foundation in my classroom this school year, trying my best to emulate the likes of Bohr and the ideas of Robinson. A true challenge, certainly not attainable, but I sincerely look forward to trying!