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"The mission is real, and you're going along for the ride."
June 26, 2010 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Last year, high school science teacher Ron Dantowitz of Brookline, Mass., played a clever trick on three of his best students. He asked them to plan a hypothetical mission to fly onboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft and observe a spacecraft disintegrate as it came screaming into Earth's atmosphere. For 6 months, they worked hard on their assignment, never suspecting the surprise Dantowitz had in store. On March 12th, he stunned them with the news: "The mission is real, and you're going along for the ride."
posted by Burhanistan (50 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have nothing more intelligent to add then:

Yay!!!
posted by cavalier at 11:48 AM on June 26, 2010


I bet that's what a glitter C-beam looks like.
posted by griphus at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


How did this not get more press, at least locally? Local news lives for this stuff.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2010


This is the first time I've ever wanted to be a high school student again.
posted by HSWilson at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I AM SO JEALOUS OF THESE NERDS.
posted by The Whelk at 11:54 AM on June 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


I knew Brookline was a well-to-do suburb, but how do they get high school science teachers like this:

Dantowitz and his students Breitmeyer, Brigitte Berman, and Yiannis Karavas were invited to join the effort because of Dantowitz's expertise in optical observations, tracking, and spectroscopy.
posted by clockzero at 11:59 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I, Brigitte Berman, in a NASA flight suit, on a NASA airplane, had just successfully helped image the reentry of a spacecraft during a NASA mission! I sat stunned in disbelief."

I misread that as:

" ...I shat, stunned in disbelief."

(which, to be fair, probably would have been my personal reaction.
posted by symbioid at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lucky bastards. Yay for them!
posted by vivelame at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2010


Now there's some kids who are going to the college of their choice.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:02 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


those poor kids. ruined.
they'll be chasing excitement for the rest of their days.
posted by de at 12:03 PM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I saw this mentioned on national news - NBC I think. They did not cover the best part - the teacher who arranged it. Stoopid coverage.
posted by Cranberry at 12:03 PM on June 26, 2010


OF course, I had already seen the fuller story on the web
posted by Cranberry at 12:06 PM on June 26, 2010


Wow, I saw the video back when, but didn't know the high-school involvement. Great stuff!
posted by Gorgik at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2010


Wow! (the other Yay!)
posted by emhutchinson at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2010


clockzero: Good as the Brookline public schools and teachers are, this was at the private Dexter/Southfield schools in South Brookline. The Clay Center Observatory runs a number of public programs for both children and adults, and they're great about doing demonstrations at some of the public science fairs in the area.
posted by nonane at 12:10 PM on June 26, 2010


I bet that's what a glitter C-beam looks like.

You should ask Lady GaGa what a glitter C-beam looks like.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:12 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


clockzero - from the end notes:

"In addition to teaching science, Dantowitz is the director of the Clay Center Observatory at the schools."
posted by djb at 12:12 PM on June 26, 2010


Well. I appear to have soiled myself with epic and hysterical jealousy.
posted by elizardbits at 12:18 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best. Teacher. Ever.
posted by teferi at 12:29 PM on June 26, 2010


I knew Brookline was a well-to-do suburb, but how do they get high school science teachers like this:

Being from Boston, I saw that it was from Brookline, rolled my eyes, and said "of fucking course."

Not that I'm bitter, of course. But as a 32-year-old who hasn't been involved in theater for 15 years, I'm still jealous of their drama program. They were putting on full productions of Into the Woods while we were struggling to perform Up the Down Staircase for our parents.

But seriously, good for those kids, and what a great teacher!
posted by lunasol at 12:43 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading more carefully, it looks like the kids actually go to Dexter and Southfield, prep schools, not Brookline High, as I'd assumed:

Breitmeyer and Karavas attend Dexter School in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Berman attends Southfield School in the same city.

Prep school kids! The scourge of smartass public school kids the Boston area over!
posted by lunasol at 12:46 PM on June 26, 2010


I'll just ditto everyone else - great teacher, lucky kids. I would have loved to do this in high school. I would love to do it even now :-)
posted by Calzephyr at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2010


Is there a Teacher Of The Century award? Let's make one up and nominate him.
posted by clarknova at 12:57 PM on June 26, 2010


As high school experiences go, Brookline High gave me a pretty good one. Still, we didn't do anything like this. (Instead, 20 of us biked around Ireland one summer, and got history and English credits for it.) (And yeah, the drama program was on the awesome side, even in the 80s.)
posted by rtha at 12:57 PM on June 26, 2010


This is awesome!
posted by Pronoiac at 1:02 PM on June 26, 2010


So it's a benevolent version of Ender's Game.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 1:09 PM on June 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


I went on a tour of this high school facility a couple of months ago. I was very impressed--as were the two more experienced scientists with me, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. These teachers were doing awesome hands-on activities--sending up lasers to the International Space Station, building their own instruments. Obviously it was all lavishly funded but the teachers were also going all out.
posted by Schmucko at 1:44 PM on June 26, 2010


I am so jealous of high school kids today,
posted by pjern at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2010


Prep. Prep school kids. Someday, you'll be working for them.
posted by dhartung at 2:37 PM on June 26, 2010


First of all, this is awesome.

Second of all, this is awesome but it also makes me a bit sad that students at every high school don't get these kinds of opportunities.
posted by bettafish at 2:49 PM on June 26, 2010


And due to Proposition 13, I didn't even get Driver's Ed in high school.

On the other hand, there's was Shawna Lewis in a shirred maillot on beach day....
posted by Samizdata at 2:52 PM on June 26, 2010


Who cares where these kids go to school? This is friggin awesome no matter how you slice it. They worked on this for 6 months thinking it was a simulated project never expecting it to be real. They did it for the love of the game not the money!! And what is cooler than having a NASA jumpsuit with your own name sewn onto the breast pocket? Nothing. Nothing at all.

When I was in high school the closest I got to this was being spaced out on some really good maui wowie.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, today's high school science is so much scienceier than mine was.
posted by tommasz at 3:37 PM on June 26, 2010


Perhaps one step down on the coolness scale, schools can also participate in another NASA project: EarthKAM.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:44 PM on June 26, 2010


Best of all, nobody at her school is going to make fun of Brigitte Berman, because she wrote the book on avoiding bullies. (Interview)
posted by jscott at 4:00 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


We care about where they went to school because education is touted constantly as this great enabler and leveler while the more jaded and cynical of us are seeing it as either primarily or entirely a mechanism by which class privilege infects the next generation while they're still too young and innocent to even realize what's going on. You are right that standing alone this event is pleasant, even (maybe) inspiring. But it gleams like the hood ornament of a devil machine that grinds society into a truly miserable place. The idea that there wouldn't be some anger directed at it is unrealistic.
posted by SomeOneElse at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not that I'm bitter, of course. But as a 32-year-old who hasn't been involved in theater for 15 years, I'm still jealous of their drama program.

I was the PRESIDENT of that Drama Society, friend - how ya like me now?

(Class of '88 reprazent)
posted by tristeza at 4:38 PM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


it gleams like the hood ornament of a devil machine that grinds society into a truly miserable place.

Protip: try not to make the object of your rant sound so cool. That's not the ringing climax of an anti-classism manifesto, that's a Judas Priest lyric.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:47 PM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


As for me, I can't hate on the kids for livin' the dream. If someone had asked me if I'd have been willing to trade one of my testicles to do that, at that age, it would have taken me all of three seconds to realize that I had a spare.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:50 PM on June 26, 2010


Oh I absolutely agree, I would have loved to do that too, and I was waxing lyrical to take the edge off and avoid getting too personal or trollish. Also it isn't like I'm absolutely without privilege myself, I'm a first-worlder with internet access and standard amounts of free time, although probably not privilege at that level. I do think the classism thing needs to be brought up to avoid idolizing this sort of thing, and the way it was immediately being shouted down Because Its Children got my dander up somewhat.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:12 PM on June 26, 2010


... that grinds society into a truly miserable place.

What, like the back of a Volkswagen?
posted by joe lisboa at 7:29 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of the time my 10th grade AP History teacher gave us that "how to dispose of a dead body" assignment. Imagine our surprise....
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


You expect me to believe that not one of his best students is Indian? Or some kind of Asian? I say somebody got robbed and his name is probably Dinesh.

In the future, he should hold a competition for who gets to participate.
posted by anniecat at 9:50 PM on June 26, 2010


Brookline is a magical place that has previously played home to the Kennedys, Conan O'Brien, King Gillette and Saul Bellow, among others.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:55 PM on June 26, 2010


You expect me to believe that not one of his best students is Indian? Or some kind of Asian? I say somebody got robbed and his name is probably Dinesh.

I've been exposed to MeFi for too long. I can't even tell if this is satire any more.
posted by rodgerd at 1:57 AM on June 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Via Universal Hub, an article from Sky and Telescope by one of the Dexter teachers.
posted by nonane at 6:46 AM on June 27, 2010


Rodgerd, I don't think it matters if it's satire or not at this point. It's just another example of why Metafilter has the reputation it does.
posted by happyroach at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2010


Best of all, nobody at her school is going to make fun of Brigitte Berman, because she wrote the book on avoiding bullies.

Also because they would risk waking up inside the giant vacuum chamber that NASA uses to test equipment.
posted by atrazine at 11:40 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is so cool and I am insanely jealous.
posted by CarolynG at 5:19 PM on June 27, 2010


Best of all, nobody at her school is going to make fun of Brigitte Berman, because she wrote the book on avoiding bullies.

That's some awful website.
posted by anniecat at 11:41 AM on June 28, 2010


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