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Known for years as one of the most liberal members of the Science Department, Kirtley F. Mather, professor of Geology, yesterday brought to a close in Geology 1 the first phase of an experiment which, if successful, may lead to the virtual elimination of the much protested laboratory routine in elementary science courses.
Since the beginning of the second half year a picked group of 40 honor men in Professor Mather's course have been freed from the ordinary laboratory work and have instead been meeting in informal sessions with special instructors. Required work for these men has been reduced to a minimum and the material of the course has been covered by original and individual research by the students, later correlated with the course through the medium of discussions with the special instructors.
Yesterday the arrival of the April Hour Examination brought the experiment its first trial. Professor Mather does not feel however, that the five weeks since Midyears is a sufficiently long period for noticeable results. The eventual success or failure of this new plan will not be determined until this picked group has taken the Final Exam and the honor men's work has been compared with that done by the regular students.
If this experiment proves successful it is thought very possible that it will lead not only to the gradual elimination of laboratory work for most of those taking Geology 1, but also to a great liberalizing of the course routine in such similar courses as Geography 1a and b. For a number of years the major complaint made by students against the elementary science courses has been directed at the formalism and lack of interest current in the laboratory periods.
By this extension of opportunity for individual work and initiative, in line with the policies of the Conant administration, Professor Mather hopes to answer these objections in the case of Geology 1. At present the special students are divided into two groups of 20 each, under the general guidance of Charles H. Burgess '31, instructor in Geology, and Newton E. Chute, tutor in Geology.
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