The Young Scientists: America's Future and the Winning of the Westinghouse

By Joseph Berger | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
A Tree Grows in
Brooklyn

David Kiefer conducts his class like an orchestra. Taut, controlled, his burly shoulders rising in an agony of anticipation, he squeezes information from his students as if he were drawing a poignant adagio from a violin section. If a response is slightly off-key, his face seems anguished. There is a sense that any graver error might unravel him. But when a student hits just the right note, just the right sharpness of phrasing, he smiles and lets out an exhalation of deep relief.

Kiefer is a master teacher and his relish in his craft is almost palpable. He came to love his work during a three-year stint in the Peace Corps teaching math to Kenyan children, and the satisfaction was so great that he relinquished a budding career as a chemical engineer so he could teach in the New York City public school system.

"I enjoy the skills of putting things as simply and as systematically as possible," he says. "No matter what it is in my life, I enjoy communicating to people in a simple and systematic way."

Kiefer has now been a teacher for almost a quarter century, and the course he is now teaching is among the most gratifying of his career. He teaches a ninth-grade class in research. Not biology, not chemistry, but research. His high school, Midwood High School in Brooklyn, New York, is one of a small but growing number of schools around the country that have been focusing many of their traditional science courses on laboratory techniques. Midwood, however, is distinctive even in this rarefied world for offering

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The Young Scientists: America's Future and the Winning of the Westinghouse
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction - The Glittering Prizes *
  • Part I - Origins *
  • Chapter 1 - You've Got to Do Science *
  • Part II - The Schools: New York *
  • Chapter Two - A Winning System *
  • Chapter 3 - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn *
  • Chapter Four - A Teacher and His Creatures *
  • Part III - The Schools: the Heartland *
  • Chapter Five - Healing a Nation at Risk *
  • Chapter Six - Like Going to Camp All Year Long *
  • Chapter Seven - Different Strokes *
  • Part IV - The Students *
  • Chapter Eight - One Small Step for M Ankin D *
  • Chapter Nine - Rabbit Run *
  • Chapter Ten - Fathers and Sons *
  • Chapter Eleven - The Right Stuff *
  • Part V - The Families *
  • Chapter Twelve - The Huddled Masses *
  • Chapter Thirteen - What's Bred in the Bone *
  • Part VI - The Contest *
  • Chapter Fourteen - The Westinghouse Candy Store *
  • Chapter Fifteen - The Last Dance *
  • Chapter Sixteen - The Envelope, Please *
  • Chapter Seventeen - Lessons *
  • Appendices *
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