Westside's Science Cheerleader; Her Methods Seem to Help Students Learn the Subject

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

Jean Harrienger-Powers wears the gaudiest necklace and earrings to class that she can find. She has so many that she can go a month without wearing the same one twice.

It's not that she doesn't have taste. She just wants her students at J.E.B. Stuart Middle School on the Westside to remember that the day she donned the tacky silver earrings with the three dangling balls, for example, was the day they learned about the characteristics of atoms.

It works. Some of her former students said they can remember a lesson because they relate it to the jewelry she was wearing.

Harrienger-Powers is the school's science standards coach. She brings the force of a dynamic personality to a subject that she fell in love with by watching "one too many Jacques Cousteau movies as a child."

She started dreaming about the ocean but lived eight hours away in upstate New York. She was 12 before she saw the Atlantic and when she did, vowed to one day move to Florida. Now she lives at Neptune Beach, though it means driving an hour each way to get to the Wesconnett Boulevard school.

Harrienger-Powers describes herself as a science cheerleader. She started teaching 25 years ago because she wanted to get students fired up about science.

During the last week of school, for instance, she introduced several classes to the distinguishing features of squids and small sharks. She had the them sit on red tables beneath the oak trees at the front of the school. The first year they did it in a classroom but when the hallways started smelling like old fish, she brought them outside.

She told them to don plastic gloves and safety goggles and not to touch the marine life with their bare fingers, because, well, it has an odor.

"Ohhh, it's nasty," one said, tentatively touching the slimy tentacles through the plastic.

"You live on the beach, man," another responded.

"I don't care," the first one said. "It's nasty."

Holding a male shark in her purple-gloved hands, Harrienger-Powers told the students that he had an extra set of fins called claspers "for holding on to his girlfriend while kissing her."

Harrienger-Powers is in her third year at J.E.B. Stuart where she works with science teachers, helping new ones with their curriculum and veterans with subject matter outside their area of expertise.

In April, she was instrumental in bringing a rockin' multimedia science show, sponsored by NASA and Honeywell International, to the school. …