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Robert and Valerie Suter: Hands-On Science

[ photo: Robert and Valerie Suter ]

Hands-On Science

In 1982, biology professor Robert Suter and his spouse, Valerie Suter, head of the Physics Department at a large public high school, came up with this great idea: Why not use the Vassar Farm to expose local school children to natural history and hands-on science?

"The impetus for this program came from two directions," wrote Suter in the VQ, 1982, "first from my concern that the college's ecological preserve is now used only for Vassar students, and is underutilized at that, and second from my realization that local public schools offer little or no hands-on science in the first three years." Thus, "Natural History at the Vassar Farm" was born.

It has since evolved into "Exploring Science at Vassar Farm" offered by the Department of Education as a one-semester program for Vassar students who are interested in science and environmental education. The students work with faculty and the program director to design lessons for second and third graders from Poughkeepsie schools.

Since its inception, over 24,000 elementary school students have experienced hands-on science at the farm nature walks, performing simple experiments, observing live animals. For some, just being on a nature preserve in the middle of nowhere, only a few miles from home is an unforgettable experience.

Read more about the special programs like Exploring Science directed out of the Education Department.

VQ Spring 1982
Photo credit: Diane Zucker