The world’s population surpassed eight billion people last month. This milestone is an incredible number and must give us pause to think about the effect of so many people living together on this planet. In the past 100 years, we have made great strides in technology, science, and health care. These advancements have enabled people to live longer and healthier lives. We have explored the depths of the oceans as well as traveled deep into space. Each new discovery aids in our understanding of what it means to be human and what roles we play in this universe.
Since the early days of man, people have been curious as to what lies beyond their borders and how they can improve their daily lives. The ability to make a controlled fire, create a wheel for transportation, or discover microbes to treat diseases have all led to a better way of living.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?" Curiosity is one of the highest aspects that leads to discovery. The questions of why or why not may be three of the most important words uttered. And these questions are spoken by curious people like our students.
One of the goals of education is to have each child reach their fullest potential. Teachers push students to go beyond their current understanding of things; encouraging them to open another door to further possibilities and opportunities. This new knowledge scaffolds upon the old and moves students to higher levels of understanding; expanding their world view, and introducing them to broader perspectives. Each teacher uses their subject matter to help students understand themselves and their role on earth. Many of these lessons spark a genuine curiosity that a student wishes to pursue further. As a result, they grow and develop ways to make this world a better place to live.
In third grade, Ms. Wess teaches the concepts of density and buoyancy using pumpkins. Students weighed, measured, and placed pumpkins in water to determine why some floated more than others. Trying to understand difficult concepts, these early scientists enjoyed themselves while experimenting and came away with a basic understanding of physics.
Outside in the courtyard during Mr. Myers’ Earth Science class, 6th graders dig in the dirt of their recycling trash composting station. They also learn how to garden and grow plants, fruits, and vegetables. These powerful lessons teach students the importance of sustainability…lessons they never forget.
High school students who enroll in Ms. Salazar’s Science Research class, explore high level research, and intern with a professional on a topic that interests them and could potentially change the world. Some examples of their research include studying the modeling of cold shock proteins and using AlphaFold to predict protein structures that could possibly treat E. coli symptoms; upper- and lower-limb prosthetics with sensory feedback to possibly assist veterans; effects of sleep and social media on adolescent mental health which could identify the risks factors for the potential development of depression; effects of microplastics in lakes; immunology by researching antibiotic resistance; and, epigenetics - the study of gene expression without the alteration of the DNA sequence.
These students, along with 3,500 others in Montville Township Public Schools, have dreams of how they will change the world. Each dream will have an impact upon a few or all of the eight billion people across the world. As students experiment, they learn from failures. Through failures and successes they continue to grow. They discover why or why not, so as to move forward in a different direction to solve the problem they are working on.
The children of today will solve the problems we face in the future. They have the tenacity, grit, and curiosity to tackle these collective issues. These students will find solutions to many of our current world’s problems if we let them. Whitney Houston sang, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” Our schools give the students the building blocks, and our teachers, parents, and mentors provide the spark that encourages them to explore the unknown and make a positive difference in a world that sustains eight billion people.
-December 21, 2022
The "Superintendent's Column,"
by Dr. Thomas A. Gorman also appears in
"The Citizen" newspaper and on-line at "MontvilleTAP"