Spangler Salutes Courtney Willis

It's Mad Scientist Week on 9News at 6 a.m.

It’s Mad Scientist Week on 9News at 6 a.m. We’re featuring creative Colorado K-12 science teachers (and beyond) who are certifiably mad about teaching science! Today Steve meets up with Professor Courtney Willis from the University of Northern Colorado with a few of his dedicated pre-service teachers.


Steve pulled out his compass and headed north to visit the mad scientists at the University of Northern Colorado who prepare students for a career as classroom teachers. But these are no ordinary teachers of science; these pre-service teachers are getting hands-on experience in learning how to create science lessons with impact.

How about lying on a bed of nails to drive home the point that science is fun? The explanation is simple if you understand physics and the principles of force, mass and weight. The weight of the person on the bed of nails is distributed across a greater surface area. One nail would be bad. Three thousand of them work fine.

Steve also learned that teachers have a few tricks up their sleeves as he uncovered the secret to making people float in mid-air. All a teacher needs to do is stand on a chair, jump down over a mirror by straddling it while perpendicular to the audience. As the teacher lifts his or her leg closest to the students, it gives the impression of floating while actually standing on the leg behind the mirror. The scientific principle being taught? The Law of Reflection as it applies to a plane mirror. Students understand that the distance of an object in front of a mirror is equal to the distance of that object behind the mirror.

“The key is to build real-world connections between textbook learning and everyday experiences,” according to Dr. Courtney Willis, Professor at the University of Northern Colorado. “Our student teachers learn how to use the fun-factor to create unforgettable teaching experiences.”

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