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Down the Rabbit Hole

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This post was written by Peter DeCraene, a 2021-22 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the Library of Congress.

Image of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland
The White Rabbit created by Emily Delafield for Alice in Wonderland : a play : compiled from Lewis Carroll’s stories Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking-glass and what Alice found there. Dodd, Mead and Company, 1898

Like the worried rabbit in this illustration from an 1898 script of Alice in Wonderland,  I have run out of time. My fellowship is ending and it’s time for me to leave the Library and return to the classroom. Like Alice in the story, I have seen amazing things, thought about what they might mean, and asked so many questions. Even as I write this post, I’m finding new avenues to explore and new questions to ask. But rather than fall down a new rabbit hole, I’ll share some of what I’ve noticed, thought, and wondered about these last two years …

What have I noticed?

The Einstein Fellowship has been an experience filled with amazing people and unending learning. Working in the Professional Learning and Outreach Initiatives (PLOI) office has been the same and then some. When I first learned that my Fellowship would be at the Library, I was excited. The actual experience has far surpassed my hopes for my time here. In addition to finding resources I never knew existed, I have found myself writing far more than I have in the past, and enjoying the process immensely. (Many thanks to my colleagues in PLOI for being sounding boards and editors!) The librarians and other experts whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with are enthusiastic about their work and amazingly generous with their time. Getting to work with folks in LC Labs and in the Science, Business, and Technology division has been an honor and a learning experience; some of my most interesting moments (like learning about Newspaper Navigator and Library datasets, or exploring deep in the stacks when the lights go out) have happened because of those connections. Sharing my own excitement with my PLOI colleagues when I notice something new or wonder about a detail has been very satisfying, and I am always happy to learn what they are noticing and wondering as well.

What do I think?

I think the best part of working at the Library has been the ability to indulge my curiosity and stretch my imagination. Looking forward, the wealth of information related to math that I have found at the Library will continue to spark my imagination for a very long time. And not just for teaching – the maps, stories, memoirs, histories, games, illustrations, and recordings have been fodder for creative work as well, and I think I will continue to write, whether for my own blog or just for myself. Reflecting back, I think I am most proud of the progress I made demonstrating how mathematics is an important part of our humanity and our history. Researching historical arithmetic books, analyzing 19th century charts and graphs, and exploring datasets as primary sources have been interesting, but uncovering the engineering in pop-up books, the geometry in time diagrams, and the creativity inherent in STEM subjects has been most satisfying.

What do I wonder?

I wonder who will be in my classes next month? Will the items I’ve discovered and the ideas I’m contemplating excite my students as much as they excite me?

I have hundreds of links saved with notes about further avenues to explore; I wonder what rabbit holes I will fall into next, and which ones will inspire my students to exclaim,“Curiouser and curiouser!”

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Comments (6)

  1. “Do you enjoy these posts?“ Of course.

  2. Your appreciation of the role that curiosity and imagination play in learning makes you a great role model for all students and teachers, no matter the subject matter! Thank you for your excellent work and example.

  3. This was a very interesting article! The title caught my attention, “Down the Rabbit Hole.” I really enjoyed reading about how much you enjoyed your experience with the Einstein Fellowship with the library! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and some of the resources that you learned about!

  4. Peter, It was a pleasure to work with you during your fellowship, and always a delight to hear your noticings and wonderings. I look forward to hearing how your students respond!

  5. After a wonderfully prolific residency, welcome to the former Teachers in Residence club. Congratulations on your successes.

  6. Peter, Thank you for spending the past two years as part of our team at the Library. We all benefitted from your curiosity and perspective, your energy and your collegiality! We are also excited to hear about your future students–and confident that your enthusiasm for the role primary sources can play in teaching and learning math will be contagious (in a great way)! Lucky students!

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