WLC teacher brings travels to her classroom

WILTON – Biology

teacher Rajbir Kalsi spent

about seven weeks earlier

this year traveling through

India, her home country,

and then into Turkey and

across a lot of Europe, in

part to broaden her horizons,

but mostly as a

learning experience, to

bring home new ideas to

share in her classroom at

Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative

High School.

"Biology is all about

life," she said recently,

"how the natural world

influences us."

Kalsi was on a sabbatical,

earned after teaching

at WLC for nine years. "I

am so grateful the school

has this program and they

allowed me to go. Travel

adds depth to your learning

experience, and every

place I went was different."

She added, "I am excited

to get back into the

classroom. People call

(science) dry and boring

but I have all these reference

points."

You have to make what

you are teaching relevant

to the student, she said.

"Science and technology

go hand in hand. Science

is what was and is, and

technology is what is going

to be. We are in the

center of that."

She found relevant biology

classes in odd places,

she said, like the Dali

Museum in Barcelona."I

went to the museum. Dali

had made these (amazing)

drawings of DNA, the double

helix. Dali isn’t your

usual biology reference."

In Milan, she visited

the National Museum of

Sciences and Technology

to look at drawings made

by Leonardo de Vinci,

his well-known Virtuvian

drawings of the human figure

in the circle, finding

the ratios in the human

body – length of arms to

body height – for instance.

"He was the first to dissect

a human cadaver,"

Kalsi said. "He made his

drawings on anatomy

from that. He was the first

to draw a fetus in situ. I

think that was the highlight

for me."

The classroom, she said,

"is a good educational

place but the world can be

your laboratory. There is a

whole shift in teaching to

get out of the classroom."

In Salzburg she looked

at a lot of amber, which is

fossilized resin.

"I always start with fossils,"

she said. "We watch

the movie ‘Jurassic Park,’

when we do DNA. Could

that happen, and what if

it did?"

But her main focus is

bio-mimicry, what people

have invented after

observing nature. "It’s a

new science," adapting

from living things. "Solar

panels are based on photosynthesis.

Plants have

been doing it for millions

of years. This can help us

to be a more sustainable

planet. I want to inspire

my students," she said.

Kalsi grew up in the

Punjab district of India.

She has a doctorate in life

sciences from the University

of Benares. She and

her husband came to this

country 15 years ago and

settled in Hudson.