Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 2 News List

US teacher uses manikins to stir students' interest

INNOVATIVE Martin Marlin was invited by the King Car Foundation to share his pedagogical skills to breathe new life into the nation's education system

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Martin Marlin, 66, a middle school science teacher in Washington State, US, was driving on the freeway a month ago when his mobile phone rang.

"I picked up and said `hi,' and somebody on the other end goes, `Hey, wanna go to Taiwan?' And I said, `Um, sure. Wait, who is this?'" Marlin told the Taipei Times.

That somebody turned out to be a recruiter from the King Car Education Foundation, a non-government organization (NGO) promoting education reform in Taiwan, Marlin added.

The foundation's executive director, Morgan Sun (孫慶國), had heard about Marlin's innovative teaching techniques during a recent tour of US schools and sought to bring Marlin and first aid instructor Sandy Leach to Taiwan to share their pedagogical skills with Taiwanese teachers and students.

"Education reform has been underway in Taiwan for a decade. But have our teachers developed any truly fresh, effective teaching methods?" Sun said at a press conference yesterday in Taipei.

The country needed more teachers like Marlin and Leach to breathe new life into the education system, Sun added.

Leach started the conference by demonstrating how high-tech, anatomically correct manikin babies were revolutionizing domestic science curricula in the US.

Boasting a digital interface on their backs, the babies were "programmed to cry at different times for different reasons," Leach said, encouraging Sun to hold one.

"Oh, I grandfather now [sic]!" Sun said while picking up a black American baby and rocking it.

Before Sun could finish his sentence, however, he accidentally dropped the 4.5kg doll with a resounding thud. On cue, the manikin's disturbingly realistic wailing kicked in, leaving the executive director with egg all over his face.

More babies then let loose bloodcurdling shrieks as members of the local press put down their tape recorders to reach out to them.

"At this point, you must insert a key-card in the baby's back," Leach said.

"But the trick is knowing which card to insert -- there's a diaper-changing key, a feeding key, a burping key, etc. The baby will only stop crying when the key corresponding to its particular need is inserted," Leach added.

Sun hailed the dolls as ideal teaching tools to promote responsible sexual behavior among the nation's youth, saying that once students understand the level of discipline required to care for a baby, they tend to approach sex with a more mature attitude.

Marlin also showed the press how simple but fun props could be used to teach kids about physics and and chemistry.

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