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The Science Wizard

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March 13, 2003
Instructor puts the magic back into science class

Robert Culp, a lecturer at Ohio University-Southern, found science to be fascinating as a young boy. Spurred on by the space race as a child, he was disappointed that succeeding generations had not followed their parents and grandparents into math and the sciences. Now he is working to revolutionize the teaching of science and excite students at all grade levels.

"We live in an age of instant gratification," Culp says. "Students are not willing to put forth the effort required for the science disciplines." And yet, what Appalachian Ohio calls for to overcome poverty is industry - which needs scientists and engineers.

"Politicians talk about having a wonderful work force in the tri-state area and talk about bringing in industry to employ the work force, but the work force is not technically qualified for the industry they want," Culp says.

quote"We have to make science so interesting that the desire to learn exceeds the fear of hard work science requires," he adds.

Dressed as the Science Wizard, Culp has been performing "magic" for students in the third through eighth grades since 1999. The magic tricks Culp is performing are really demonstrations of scientific principles and the costume is just part of the act.

"The costume creates an atmosphere of fun for kids that makes learning science fun," Culp says. "If it goes up, blows up or bounces off the wall, the kids love it."

The Science Wizard has been traveling to area schools since his debut at Southern's Fall Festival in 1999. Culp has educated more than 3,000 students in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, with programs in natural sciences, reptiles, rocks and spiders.

Culp expects his students to take his lessons to heart. A firm believer in learning by doing, he involved several of his students in his Science Wizard work. Some have even performed their own Science Wizard presentations.

"By teaching scientific principles to the younger students, the college students gain a greater knowledge of the subject," he explains. "My students become so engrossed in the program that they search for new ways to present the scientific principles."

The "magic" has not only excited students about science, but it has also led to higher levels of academic achievement on Ohio's science proficiency exam. Fairland East Elementary and Burlington Elementary Schools both raised the number of children passing Ohio's fourth-grade science proficiency test after involvement in a series of Wizard workshops.

"At both schools, the teachers commented on how the sessions helped their students by creating an enthusiasm for science," Culp says.

Revolutionizing the teaching of science, he believes, is key to his mission. During the summer he offers a "Wizard Workshop on Science," for teachers who are interested in learning how to perform his demonstrations. More than 40 teachers have completed the workshop thus far and are now performing their own "magic."

The complete Science Wizard profile was published in the Regional Higher Education Annual Report


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