Calvin Swartzendruber (’89), a chemistry and physics teacher at Bethany, typically spends his summers at the University of Notre Dame, where he conducts research related to high-energy particle physics as a part of QuarkNet, a program jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. Teachers, students, and professors all work together on projects that give rising high school seniors research experience and help high school teachers keep up-to-date with current advances in physics.

However, in the summer of 2014 Calvin took a break from that work as the result of receiving a $10,000 Teacher Creativity Fellowship from Lilly Endowment. As a result he has created 15 podcasts for use in middle and high school science classrooms. Watch podcasts.

Calvin at the Leaning Tower of PisaCalvin began by retracing the footsteps of early chemists and physicists as part of a self-designed European Science Trek, which included filming at chemistry and physics landmarks—laboratories, museums, and monuments—that represent a significant scientific discovery or an invention with underlying scientific principles. The trek took him and his wife Karen—the project videographer—to 13 European countries in 31 days visiting sites such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy and Cambridge University in England.

Over the next year Calvin wrote narrative scripts and edited video to produce short podcasts (2-3½ minutes) that are historically and scientifically accurate and relevant for students in grades 4-12. His presentation to the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers was highly received, and already one podcast has received nearly 300 views!

Each podcast, designed as a supplement to lessons, ties together three elements: a scientific concept, a scientist associated with that concept, and a geographical location or artifact significant to that concept. For example, when studying gravity, students can see where Sir Isaac Newton developed his law of gravitation, including a descendent of the apple tree that inspired his thinking. Swartzendruber says, “The podcasts provide additional insights to help students expand their knowledge, to better connect with the scientific concept in interesting ways, and hopefully to aid them in remembering it better.”

According to Lilly, the intent of the fellowship is for teachers to “become learners again as they explore their own curiosities and dreams, spend time in other parts of the world, pursue personal passions and just get away."

So in addition to creating podcasts, Calvin also retraced the footsteps of his ancestors, visiting Anabaptist and family sites. They even stayed in an inn that had once been part of his Swartzendruber ancestors’ homestead prior to their emigration in the 19th century! He says, “The fellowship was a great opportunity to bring together my interests in video production, history of science, travel, and family history all at one time.”

See also Goshen News article.