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Science partnership brings hand-on learning to elementary schools

At Mary Lin Elementary School in Atlanta, Emory College junior Anisha Patel hands out hard-boiled eggs, paper towels, and plastic knives to a boisterous third-grade class. "What kind of animal lays this egg?" she asks them. They shout, in chorus, "A chicken!" Patel instructs the students to shell the eggs, slice them in half, identify the parts, then draw and label a picture of a dissected egg. For twenty noisy minutes, the eggs are mutilated while Patel continues her questions over the din: "What is that part of the egg? What's the purpose of the yolk? What's the difference between an egg and the way humans are born?"

Patel, a premedical student, is enrolled in the Elementary Science Education Partnership (ESEP), a joint program administered by Emory and the Atlanta Public Schools. Last summer ESEP received a $5.7-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to place college science majors in elementary school classrooms to help teachers implement inquiry-based, hands-on learning techniques.

"Inquiry science is not simply talking to children," explains Robert DeHaan, W.P. Timmie Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology and ESEP director. "Research tells us the best way to educate is to surround children with questions that engage their curiosity and excitement. You give them, say, an electric motor and a battery. You play with it until you get the children intrigued, then you begin asking questions, letting them test their ideas about how the motor works. You gradually help children get a vocabulary and a set of concepts they will remember for a long time, much longer and with much greater understanding than by the traditional modes [of teaching]."

ESEP began in the fall of 1994 with seventy-one Emory student partners in six elementary schools. The NSF grant will help bring these hands-on techniques to more than 31,000 children in Atlanta's seventy-five elementary schools over the next five years. Partners are recruited from Emory College, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Atlanta University Center, where a similar program was launched two years ago. The college students register for the two-credit, directed study course, which requires a commitment of six hours a week. After receiving training in the philosophy and methods of hands-on science, they spend three to four hours a week co-teaching activities in the schools. The rest of the six hours is spent in preparation and weekly "reflection sessions" with other student partners.

The NSF grant also provides teacher training and the materials used in hands-on science. Every six weeks, each elementary teacher receives a footlocker-sized crate containing, for example, thirty small motors, batteries, and wires to be used during a unit on electricity. Another crate might hold chemical test kits or butterfly cocoons. Working with their partners from area colleges and universities, teachers may have their classes use modeling clay and coins to demonstrate how fossils are formed, handle an actual cow's heart to learn how a heart works, or wrap a wet paper towel and a lima bean in plastic to study seed germination.

"The fact is that science is what a second-grader or a third-grader wants to do, whether he knows it or not," DeHaan says. "He wants to ask questions of the world, to explicitly improve his image of how the world works."

For the student partners, the program means much more than course credits. "Being at Emory, you get so into the science," says Patel. "It's nice to know that I can actually teach what I'm learning to younger kids. I feel useful and not just abstract. Plus, being with the kids is just wonderful."--A.O.A.


T hree women with Emory connections recently had successes in distance running. On Thanksgiving Day, Emory College sophomore Vista Beasley, the Eagles' top-ranked women's cross country runner, won her age group in the Atlanta Half Marathon (1:28:41), and Lynn Holda, an anesthetist who earned her master's degree in medical science from Emory in 1995, captured her second consecutive Atlanta Marathon title in a women's course record time of 2:56:28. Also, Associate Professor of Pathology Valerie Murrah qualified for the prestigious 100th running of the Boston Marathon, which takes place in April. Murrah secured a place in the nation's oldest marathon after a 3:48:59 effort for the 26.2-mile distance at a race in Hartford, Connecticut.--J.D.T.


Sophomore Bret LaGree's off-Broadway play conjures a society for real men only

It's halftime during "Monday Night Football." Three adrenaline-pumped guys are watching the game and drinking beer in a neighborhood bar. "Who rules the world?" demands one. "Guys!" bellow the others. The three then begin to conjure "an idealized society for real men only," where guys really do rule, where they have granted themselves "freedom to drink beer," "freedom to eat red meat, and smoke while we do it," and "freedom to make my decision the right decision."

This is Guyworld, the droll vision of Emory College sophomore Bret LaGree. LaGree's eighteen-minute play was one of four winning entries selected from nearly two thousand submitted for the annual Young Playwrights Festival in New York City. Young Playwrights Inc. was founded in 1981 by Stephen Sondheim and members of the Dramatists Guild to encourage young writers to develop new works for the theater. LaGree's play, along with three other equally brief winners, ran off-Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater last fall.

LaGree, son of Candler School of Theology Dean R. Kevin LaGree, spent seven weeks in New York during the production of Guyworld. With the help of theater professionals, he revised his script and was involved in every phase of production, from set design to the selection of a director and cast. "I was in rehearsal every day," LaGree says. "If there was a question about a character, I would try to answer it."

An English major, LaGree wrote his first draft of Guyworld at sixteen while he was homebound with mononucleosis. "I had been reading--that's basically all you can do with mono--and I read [David Mamet's play] American Buffalo," he says. "That afternoon I started writing, and I wrote about half of Guyworld. Then I took a nap. After I got up and had a little something to eat, I wrote the second half.

"American Buffalo really impressed me because [Mamet] did what I had been trying to do as a writer until then, which is keep the plot, the serious stuff, in the subtext and not mention it directly. I work very hard not to have laughs at the expense of the characters. I make my characters more honest than is really realistic, and that allows them to be funny. And sometimes you can still convince people that they're realistic. It stops being funny if it's not real."

In the play, the bickering commences when the three guys, Tom, Ray, and Dave, grapple with the details of Guyworld. As Village Voice critic Charles McNulty put it, "Testosterone quickly overboils . . . and their utopian vision comes crashing down with threats, curses, and bruised egos. Only the sound of `Monday Night Football' can bring them back from the brink of broken noses and fat lips."

McNulty notes LaGree's "keen ear for the clipped rhythms of guyworld dialogue. . . . [He] reveals the excesses of male bonding in the jabbing staccato of their barroom banter." New York Times writer Ben Brantley suggested that "Mr. Mamet should probably take a look at [Guyworld]."--A.O.A.


The Emory men's and women's swimming teams recently dove headfirst into the information age. The Eagles competed against the University of Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (yes, that's Banana Slugs) on dueling fax machines.

The meet was so off-beat that it made the pages of Sports Illustrated's Scorecard section: "In a successful money-saving stroke, Santa Cruz and Emory competed via fax, swimming in their respective home pools and then transmitting the results simultaneously. `There were no fans watching,' said Andrew Pulsifer, the Emory assistant coach who concocted the fax plan, `but it was exciting. I got giddy watching the results come over the line.' "

For the record, Emory's women, ranked tenth in the nation, knocked off the eighth-ranked Slugs, while the men's team was defeated. According to Pulsifer, the Eagles saved about $14,000 with the techno-savvy meet. --J.D.T.


Goizueta Business School seminar praised as an "unparalleled learning opportunity"

"Emory's Roberto C. Goizueta Business School recently gave some one hundred and fifty Atlanta businesswomen a chance to spend a day networking and consulting with some of the nation's top female executives. The forum was co-sponsored by Emory, MCI, and the Committee of 200 (C200), an organization composed of women entrepreneurs whose companies annually generate $10 million or more and corporate executives managing divisions that produce more than $50 million yearly. Ronald E. Frank, dean of the Goizueta Business School, called the conference "an unparalleled learning opportunity for our MBA students and alumni and for Atlanta-area women seeking to advance in the corporate arena."

The conference, "The Challenge of Growth: Businesswomen Who Dare to Think Big," featured C200 members addressing such topics as "Do What Terrifies You (Everything Else is Boring)," "Management Styles," and "The Fear to Succeed." Speakers included Sherry Manning, founder, chairperson, president, and chief executive officer of Education Communications Consortia Inc.; Sharon L. Folk, president and chairperson of National Business Forms Inc.; Mylle Bell Mangum, executive vice president of Holiday Inn Worldwide; and Jan S. Pringle, president of the public relations firm Pringle Dixon Pringle Inc. Each panel discussion was moderated by a Goizueta Business School faculty member.

During a panel on "Balancing Work and Family," Ann H. Gaither, chief executive officer and chairperson of The J.H. Heafner Company Inc., advised attendees, "If you're going to try balancing family and a career, expect it to be crazy. I think the salvation is to have your priorities straight. And do this with the consent of all around you."

Gail J. Koff, executive vice president and founding partner of Jacoby & Meyers law offices, added, "A sense of humor is essential. It doesn't make sense to get riled up about your kid coming down wearing a T-shirt that looks like it's been worn five days in a row. You have to pick your battles and laugh a lot."

Headquartered in Chicago, C200 was founded in 1982 to bring women business leaders together to address critical issues related to business and the economy. The group also maintains a support network to enhance women's professional and personal goals. C200, which currently has 380 U.S. and international members from seventy industries, sponsors two conferences a year in different regions of the country in conjunction with area business schools. This year's conference was the first held in Atlanta. "In a world where the glass ceiling is still very much a reality, this conference can be an especially powerful tool in helping women succeed in business," said Mangum, who co-chaired the forum.--A.O.A.

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