Trying to study what you cannot see: Reed students Lauren Mathewson, Jenn Dolan, and Julie Lawler give Rieke Elementary student Jordan Carey a choice between clean and contaminated M&M's.
A relay race to show how nerve impulses travel followed. "We divided the kids into two teams," says Relph. "I passed a math problem to each. The first kids in line were the dendrite. They passed the problem to a circle of kids in the middle (the cell body) who solved it. The remaining kids were the axon. When the problem reached the last kid, he read the answer out loud, and the first team to finish won."

In addition to the micro-biology unit developed by Reed professor Jay Mellis, in earlier semesters Reed biology professors led units on molecular biology and genetics (Janis Shampay), cell biology (Maryanne McClellan), plant ecology (Keith Karoly), animal behavior (Michael Childress), plant physiology (David Dalton), and developmental biology (Steven Black).

Meanwhile the staff worked hard to coordinate initial difficulties in pulling disparate elements together into one coherent program.   By 1998 it was running smoothly enough to add a third school: Beach Elementary in north Portland. With 700 students, Beach is the largest elementary school in the city, serving many disadvantaged children and immigrants speaking Cambodian, Russian, Spanish, or one of several African languages as their first language.  Would the approach that worked at the other schools meet the extra challenges at Beach?

"It was hard for the children to come up with hypotheses, let alone ways to prove them," says Beach teacher Fran Shaw, "particularly after subjects like math, where answers are right or wrong. Insecure kids have more trouble taking that kind of risk, and many of these kids have a lot of things to cope with and reasons to be insecure."

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