Winning and sweet science

Winning and sweet science

We cleaned up at the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists awards luncheon on Sunday, and I am proud and pleased as punch. (See page 15.) I am proud as well, not just of the current crop of winners – I am one, and so are two other people with my last name – but also of the many talented writers whose work has appeared in this newspaper over the years.

Miryam Wahrman, for example, a current and former NJSPJ winner as well as a winner of the American Jewish Press Association’s Rockower award, has taught us all, readers and writers alike, about how modern science intersects (or not) with Jewish law and values. A professor of biology at William Paterson College in Wayne, she reminded me on Sunday that she wrote her first pieces for us, on cloning and comets, in the spring of 1997. She did not fit into any of our journalistic pigeonholes, and I was at a loss as to how to use her knowledge and talents. And then, an aha moment: We would make her our science correspondent – and so she has been ever since, writing clearly about complex subjects.

An understanding of science, in fact – how things work or don’t, how illness is transmitted or healed, how the environment is protected or damaged – is essential in today’s world, and we’ve been struck by how seriously local Jewish educators take this part of their curricula. The fact that so many day-school students have shone in prestigious science competitions is a sign of their teachers’ high seriousness.

Meanwhile, students from three local day schools competed in a Science Olympiad on Monday. (See page 8.) In an interesting and valuable variation of such competitions, instead of pitting the schools against each other, the organizers created mixed-school teams. These had to solve challenges collaboratively – learning cooperation as well as honing their scientific skills.

So many of the greatest scientific achievements have been due to teamwork. Even Isaac Newton, that solitary genius, said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

A newspaper is also a collaborative effort and so I say, yasher koach to the young scientists and their teachers and yasher koach to the entire Jewish Standard crew.

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