- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

The principal hydroplaned across the stage and collided with a big pie, and two teachers pummeled each other yesterday in a decidedly nontraditional science and mathematics lesson for Herndon Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders.

The antics were part of FMA Live!, a live-action, stunt-filled “lecture” sponsored by Honeywell International Inc. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“It’s going to help in the education of the students,” said Principal Frank Jenkins, after escaping from an air-powered chair and cleaning pie foam from his face. He warned students, “I’m going to have all the teachers give a quiz tomorrow.”

Eighth-grade math teachers Chad Erbrecht and Richard Forsythe, dressed in hard hats and oversized, inflatable jackets, repeatedly ran into each other, knocking each other to the floor — and drawing roars of approval from students.

Intermittently during the 45-minute show, an actor portraying Sir Isaac Newton appeared on movie screens, describing his laws of gravity, motion, action and reaction. In other words, force, mass and acceleration, abbreviated to “FMA Live!”

In the audience of 1,120 was U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican. Three of his five children graduated from the school, he said.

“I expect our students to like this latest and most advanced technique for education,” Mr. Wolf said. “Our country is falling behind in science, math and physics in our schools.”

A young woman and two young men conducted the show, which featured hip-hop dance, singing, somersaults and belly-flops on stage. Each performance previewed physics lessons on everything from gravity to inertia to action and reaction. They called students to the stage to demonstrate the laws.

David Fortna and Danny Bentley, a basketball player and a lacrosse player, respectively, donned special Velcro suits, ran up a runway and jumped to see who would be caught highest on a giant Velcro wall.

Cheerleader and soccer player Katie Vogt used her right kicking leg as an accelerator, easily kicking a soccer ball into a net. But her trusty power source barely could move a much larger target, a special soccer ball almost twice as high as she was tall.

Objects, student learned, remain at rest unless moved by an outside force. And the force is acceleration — and more energy than a teenager’s soccer leg produces is needed to move more massive objects.

Finally, Alexis Lewis and Sean Wheeler rode two air-powered dragsters across the stage.

The FMA Live! show moves on in its 10-week tour to 20 cities, including Baltimore; New York; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Cleveland; South Bend, Ind.; Minneapolis; Spokane, Wash.; Seattle; Los Angeles; and Las Vegas. An estimated 18,000 students will see the show.

Michael Holland, director of Honeywell Hometown Solutions, said research shows that fewer people are pursuing careers in mathematics, science and engineering, even though employment in those occupations is increasing three times faster than all other occupations.

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