Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Puttin' on the Ritz

You might think I'm crackers but everything really is better on a Ritz. Yes, cheese applied atop a Ritz is absolutely delicious (but to be fair, the addition of cheese makes just about anything worth nibbling). Go a little further and add a slice of ham or turkey and the flavor increases. Heck, even Science is tastier when blended with Ritz. How so? Allow me to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a thoroughly scientific instrument ended up as a beloved toy. It was the year 1816, and a clever Scottish physicist by the name of Sir David Brewster (as in Brewster’s Angle) was all agog about color. In order to explore the qualities and (chromatic) nature of light, Brewster became enthralled playing with mirrors. He subsequently invented the kaleidoscope (as well as the word, too–from the Greek Kalos, beautiful + eidos, form; + skopos to view). Brewster’s contributions to the study of light (along with an impressive body of knowledge amassed by others) eventually resulted in a better understanding of the dual nature of light and one very cool toy.

Technology, toys, and time to think ideas through–all of these components (along with the propensity to add a little fun to Science)--promote better understanding and lifelong learning. Teachers who wish to help their students understand concepts surrounding the properties of light as well as reflection and refraction, would do well to allow pupils to play with kaleidoscopes. With a little patience, access to the internet, and some inexpensive materials, most learners can find and follow directions for making a kaleidoscope. To extend the learning experience, and have more than a modest helping of fun, educators can direct learners to appreciate a taste for experimentation at the Ritz Cracker site. Once there, pupils can tinker with the Ritz kaleidoscope and make more than a few observations about how and why they see the patterns that emerge.

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