Wednesday, December 08, 2010

On behalf of our esteemed colleague...

Now, I've had students get into the Newton v. Leibniz project in Calc I, but a trio of this term's participants took it to the next level.

Hermione, Nina, and Quinn, played the parts of Newton's colleagues John Collins, Isaac Barrow, and Henry Oldenburg, respectively, in my morning section. During the trial they filled the bill impeccably, offering accurate and convincing portrayals as they went, one by one, to the stand in defense of their colleague. Outside of class, too, they stayed in character as they wrote first-person apologia on Newton's behalf. Not only were these letters among the most creative and clearly-written responses to this exercise I've ever received from students...they were also rendered in startling form.

Executed in three distinct antique hand-like fonts (including "Emily Dickinson," modeled after the poet's actual handwriting) upon nine sheets of artificially-aged paper, the letters come to life in striking fashion.

Gimmicky? Perhaps, but cleverly so! The air of authenticity this medium lends is simply marvelous! See for yourself; here's Collins's letter:

The letters themselves delighted me (especially as I found them waiting for me in my office at the end of a particularly long workday), but more delightful still is knowing that the students had gotten this into the project.

Here's Oldenburg's offering, in bold diagonal strokes and terminating in a huge Hancockian signature:

Barrow's script is smaller and more timid, becoming the sort of man who would cede his chair as Lucasian Professor at Cambridge to his promising young pupil:

Who said there's no room for artistic creativity in the calculus classroom? Well done! (Incidentally, I did indeed get permission from my students to post their work.)

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