Scientist returns for 5th graders

When scientist David James showed up at Shelter Island School a couple of weeks ago to surprise his children with lessons about the universe, son Benjamin, 10, a 5th grader, got to see his father.

But his class was called out to a special assembly, so students never got to hear from Mr. James, who works with a team of scientists on the “Black Hole Initiative” at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

To make it up to Ben and his friends, Mr. James returned last Friday to offer a lesson to Michele Yirce’s students and give Benjamin an opportunity to show his pride in his father to the group.

For the 5th graders, the lesson was more sophisticated than those Mr. James gave to his son Tennessee’s 1st grade class, or daughter Charlotte’s 3rd graders, two weeks earlier.

Students learned why earthlings can see various phases of the moon, as Mr. James had them demonstrate how the moon waxes and wanes, showing its full face generally once a month while usually giving a view of slices at other times.

They learned about blue moons — an occasional full moon that shows up more than once a month, and with Mr. James instructing them, they learned to show how the earth and moon rotate around the sun.

They also learned a bit about mother earth and the radioactivity in the core that creates its own heat.

For Ben, as it had been for his younger siblings, there was the same pride in his dad’s knowledge. But as with the others, there was the obvious love between father and son that shone the brightest.

The three children have a younger sibling, Beaumaris, 4, a preschooler, who, no doubt, will in a future year get to have dad speak to one of his classes.