A Tribute to Paul F. Brandwein

Winter 1996 Masthead

E. Jean Gubbins &
Joseph S. Renzulli

University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT

Science education in the 20th and 21st century will continue to be influenced by Dr. Paul F. Brandwein—cientist, author, artist, master teacher, and humanitarian. Paul died in September 1994, and we miss his presence and enlightened wisdom about so many educational issues. We had the special honor of publishing Paul’s last book entitled Science Talent in the Young Expressed Within Ecologies of Achievement for our Research-Based Decision Making Series. When we first approached Paul Brandwein about the prospect of documenting his well-tested approach to working with the young to nurture and develop their science-proneness, he did not hesitate to agree. He saw the book as an opportunity to capture his thinking about science and education for two special populations: gifted students and disadvantaged students. His interests, prior work, and continual commitment to making science a joy for students were a perfect match to the Javits legislation which supported our Center. As a teacher at Forest Hills High School in New York City, Paul translated theory into practice as he experimented with eyes-on, hands-on, brains-on, minds-on techniques in science. He continued his approach for decades, even as he moved from high school to colleges and universities around the country and to a large publishing house—Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Paul chronicled his theoretical and practical philosophies in several books—two of which have had a great impact on our field:

Brandwein., P. F. (1955). The gifted student as future scientist. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Brandwein, P. F., & Passow, A. H. (Eds.). (1988). Gifted young in science: Potential through performance. Washington, DC: National Science Teachers Association.

When you read these books and others by Paul, you become acutely aware of his forward thinking about education. He wrote what he believed, what he experienced, and what he wished for the children of the world. The scientific minds of the young could be opened in so many ways through the guidance and the talent of educators. Perhaps this belief was behind the reason for one of his large scale projects for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Paul was integral to creating the science series—Concepts in Science. To this day, the first author remembers vividly the book emblazoned with his name—Paul F. Brandwein. The series took on special meaning because it offered the novice teacher a hands-on investigative approach. This science series was more than just teachers’ and students’ editions for various grade levels—leaving teachers and students to navigate their way through the pages unassisted. No!— Concepts in Science was a premier series with all the necessary tools, materials, instructions, rocks, minerals, fossils, chemicals, beakers, plastic tubing, measuring devices, etc. to turn traditional elementary classrooms into scientific laboratories. The laboratory atmosphere that Paul knew so well was now available to all who accessed the well-designed, forward-thinking science series. The series may have been concurrent with or preceded other curriculum reform projects of the 1960s. We can’t trace the original release date for the series; however, the large closet-size cabinets and small table top compartments in green and purple will never be forgotten because they held the tools and keys to experience the wonderment of science. Students would think and act like professional scientists as they hypothesized and conducted experiments. Science went beyond words on paper—it was what it should be.

For years, Paul visited classrooms around the country to witness his philosophy in action. As a researcher with a quantitative orientation, he also carried the tools of the qualitative researcher—pens and journals—as he observed classrooms and recorded copious notes. He shared some notes in Science Talent in the Young Expressed Within Ecologies of Achievement and they are highlighted here as illustrations of science-minded classrooms:

Observations of a Combined Fourth and Fifth Grade Class (1989)

Aim: To study the concept of weight and lead to a concept of mass.

A boy brought up a problem one Friday: “I saw a boy balancing his father on a see-saw. The father was sitting near the hinge at the center; the boy at the end of the see-saw. How does this work?”

Several hands went up, but the class was ending, and the children and teacher agreed to take up the problem on Monday. By then, a girl had “invented” a model: A thin metal ruler on a pivot; four checkers on the ruler near the pivot; two at the end.

“If you know the length of the see-saw,” she explained, “you can balance the weights. So W (weight of the body) x L on the other side.” She drew a sketch of the apparatus on the board. “I checked it up in a high school textbook, but I thought up the checkers as weights and made the fulcrum using the edge of a box.” She then answered questions, particularly about her “formula.” (Brandwein, 1995, p. 44)

Observation of a Rural District of Fourth Graders (1964)

Aim: To illustrate concept formation, based on prior experience and leading to a construct.

In the introduction to the lesson, the teacher probed what his students knew, asking what kind of farms were in the area, what the crops were, what types of plants and animals they cared for, and so forth. He elicited all this information apparently not only to prepare the children’s mind-set but also to set them at ease. Then, the teacher held up four hens’ eggs—two brown, two white—and asked, “If these were hatched what would come of them?” The response, almost in chorus, “Chicks.” One girl asked: “Are the eggs fertilized?” The teacher cracked one open; it was hard boiled. Laughter. “Nothing but lunch will come out of this one.”

Asked the teacher, “Suppose they were fertilized—then hatched. What would happen in the next weeks or so?” The boys and girls described how a chick was brought to full development into a hen or a rooster. They discussed such matters as diet, for example. But the teacher noticed that one boy was silent, appearing inactive, and the teacher passed him an egg.

“Why not a duck, an ostrich?” the teacher queried. Softly, the boy said. “It doesn’t have the DNA of these animals.” With some encouragement, the boy was able to explain that DNA was in the cells of the growing chick. And, when asked—”What’s DNA?”—he stood to answer, “deoxyribonucleic acid.” He explained with some uneasiness that he learned about DNA first from a TV program; then, he went to an encyclopedia and to magazines; next, he consulted biology textbooks and had conversations with an older brother, then in high school. The construct developed before the end of the lesson: Living things inherit their traits from their parents. (Brandwein, 1995, pp. 41-42)

For decades, we only knew of Dr. Paul F. Brandwein as a scientist and an author. Then in 1981 he honored us with his presence at the University of Connecticut’s Confratute, a summer conference/institute on gifted and talented education. Paul was a keynote speaker for an audience of hundreds of administrators and teachers from all over the world. He shared his talents and perspectives as a scientist in describing the historical, contemporary, and futuristic views of science education. He wove scientific theories and practical applications throughout the tapestry of musical compositions as he graced us with his artistic talent as a pianist. Paul combined words and music to send his message. That was the only time that the first author saw Paul Brandwein in person. The name on the cover of Concepts in Science took on a very special meaning.

Over a decade later, we were privileged to have several phone conversations with Paul as he prepared his manuscript for the NRC/GT. Paul talked about his work, his progress on the chapters, and his commitment to its completion. Our comments about the brilliance of his work were always greeted with “you’re so kind.” A man of genius, of scientific notoriety, and a master teacher was so humble. His comment gave us pause because we held him in such high regard. He was the one who was so kind in his unending commitment to science education. He truly made the science classroom a better place for children and teachers alike.

Paul’s words were finalized for his NRC/GT monograph in 1994. Unfortunately, Paul never saw the published copy, since it was released in April 1995. He worked so long and hard on his manuscript, and we trust that it will influence the future of science education for decades to come. Dr. Paul F. Brandwein was truly the kind person, scientist, author, artist, master teacher, and humanitarian who has contributed so much to the scientific and educational communities.

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Deborah Fort and Evelyn Morholt who dedicated so many hours to fine-tuning Paul’s manuscript. Deborah Fort was thrilled when the book arrived at her door. She, too, was honored by the opportunities to collaborate with Paul on many projects. Unfortunately, Evelyn Morholt never saw the final copy due to her untimely death. We shared our gratitude with both collaborators many times, and we will always remember their contributions to this special project.


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