If there is a legend in the Auburn University community, there is little doubt in my mind that it is retired physics professor Dr. Charlotte Ward. She and her husband moved to Auburn in 1957 and a year letter she begin doing science lessons on Alabama Public Television.
She laughs as she tells how she came to be on TV. “I was not working at the time and a friend whose husband worked for the TV station suggested to him that since I was both a scientist and a mother, I should be able to talk about science for children on the air.” she recalls.
She joined the university faculty as a physics professor in 1961 and was there for 33 years.
Now the talk of cutting funding for science education for public schools leaves her shaking her head. Here is her comment about it she posted on this blog. It important that her thoughts get as much exposure as possible.
“When Sputnik went up, some Alabamians suddenly realized there was almost no science teaching in the elementary schools. There were few teachers prepared to teach science and no money to hire them anyway, but Alabama did have a brand new educational television network, and through in-school programming, an elementary school could have a bake sale, buy a few TV sets, and watch “Upper Elementary Science with Dr. Charlotte Ward(that’s me, ungrammatically). I didn’t have a budget, either, but I managed, along with teaching the adopted curriculum in three half-hour broadcasts a week,to help teachers make simple experimental equipment out of odds and ends (our motto: without junk, you’re sunk): think a weather station made of Dixie cups and the free thermometers given away by hardware stores and yardsticks from the local lumber yard. At least, we made a start. I’m going to be 88 Sunday, and sadly, the state of science teaching is not all that much better now. The ASIM program,started by my colleagues in Physics and Chemistry at Auburn has been a wonderful resource for the last twenty years. Take it away, and we’ll be pre-Sputnik again.”
There is no shortage of voices telling educators what to do these days. But rarely does one speak out with the depth of understanding as Dr. Charlotte Ward. To ignore her in favor of the mis-informed is crazy.