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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (Nov. 7, 1909)
1 HE OMAHA oTJNBAY JdEE
A PAPER FOR THE HOM
YOUR MO NET' 3 WORTH
U v PAGES 1 TO 4.
g w t -. x ii n
VOL. XXXIX NO. 21.
OMAIIA, SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 7, 11)09.
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
LABORATORIES THAT TURN OUT PRACTICAL SCIENTISTS
Work Shops of the Chemistry and Physics Departments of the Omaha High School Showing Students Demonstrating Truths They Have Learned
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DR. H. A. SENTER
HEAD OF CIIETIISTBY DEPARTMENT anilIBRARIN
PROE NATHAN BERNSTEIN
HEAD OF PHYSICS DEPARTMENT
CLASS IN PHYSICS
CLASS IN CHEMISTRY
ON THE third floor of the Omaha nigh school are two great
workshops of science. '
In these laboratories Omaha students seek to release
the enigmatical secrets of the universe the supernatural
laws which make the wheels of the earth revolve. These
Students are doing things In the shops of chemistry and physics, for
they have been taught to realize that the development of miracle
working marchlnery the contrivances that drive the wheels of prog
ress really began with the elementary principles of these mystic
V; By slow and painful steps man has learned that the progress of
the nations is linked with one source of energy fire. When man
first learned to build a fir he made his start on the long road toward
enlightenment. Prehistoric man learned to keep himself warm, to
cook his food, to get metals out of ores and to forge them into rude
v weapons of defense by the simple application of flame. By means of
signal fires on the hilltops he flashed his first wireless messages.
Today we have the steam engine, the electric dynamo and motor,
the power printing press, the power loom, the telephone, the wireless
I telegraph and the flying machine. By means of these and countless
other Inventions one man can do the work of hundreds, the conti
nents are linked together, darkness is turned Into light and time and
space are vanquished.
V Stories of these wonderful inventions, of the struggles of the men
iiu brought them Into being and of the patient researches and brll-
llant discoveries of the men of science, who established the founda
tion principles upon which all these inventions rest, have their first
chapters in laboratories similar to the workshops of the Omaha High,
The students. It is true, are following the well-beaten trails of the
world's greatest scentlsts, but they are learning for themselves, by
personal investigation and practical application, the profound secrets
thai transcend the ordinary laws by which the universe Is governed.
Truths, almost Incomprehensible, are made known to them through
their own efforts. Some day they may learn things about physics
and chemistry that are now unknown to science.
Modern Methods of Teaching
In the Omaha High school, as in all other schools of learning, the
methods of teaching physics and chemistry have been revolutionized
within the last twenty years. The reaction against the loose and
desultory methods previously in vogue was started by the emphasis
given to laboratory work in the new text books which appeared from
time to time. The movement gained impetus from the Influence
brought to bear by college entrance .requirements, and this pressure
resulted Injleiatnd for closer personal observation by the students.
"Practical work is what we demand from the student," Bays Dr.
H. A. Senter, head of the chemistry department, "not cut and dried
tut book knowledge. ' We try to teach the student to learn for him
self, to apply the book principles to actual and practical life. We
want results, too not the accurate answers worked out to the sixth
' decimal place by 'doctored' figures and copied data, but real, honest
Let the uninitiated visit the third floor of the local high school.
glle may observe a lecture room with a large experiment table In
"front, in full view of the students' seats, arranged in a sloping gal
lery. This Is the class room and a small part of the science depart
ment of the school. The real facts are learned in the laboratories.
In the chemical laboratory one may see a student, attired in a
t rubber apron, bending over the blue flame of a Bunsen burner and
watching the chemical changes taking place within the transparent
walls of a test tube. At another desk he may see a student working
with Urge glass Jars, from which is occasionally emitted rank,
chloric fumes. Another student Is busy Juggling the symbols and
figure of a chemical equation, endeavoring to learn for himself just
what action one element may have upon another when placed under
One student is experimenting with that strange, unexplalnable, weird
magical science which unfolds the phenomena and laws of electricity.
, Two Jars here, in which are placed slno and copper plates In, an acid
bath, give off the "Juice" by copper wire conductors. From the
fundamental stages one may see the telephone, the telegraph and
. ' v , j 3 " uvi wrm 1M.14 liuiuui, ma VVIBUUH, ll I V tt k VVIGIS aTV
unfolded to the students within the walla of the high school rooms.
The new twentieth century methods of instruction have brought
out the salient fact that, in their own way, boys and girls have by
nature and disposition the keenest Interest in physical phenomena.
So far as the science is concerned itself, the most Important result
of this introduction of laboratory work into the public schools has
been the development in the public mind of a widespread recognition
of the fundamental principle that knowledge is real and living to the
Individual, only when it Is founded on personally observed facts and
Must Be Interest
In order to progress In any line of human endeavor there must
be Interest. Cut and dried methods of study are tabooed In the mod
ern class rooms and laboratories. The students are allowed, or
rather encouraged, to Investigate the unknown themselves.
The mere knowledge that there are four elements which, in a
class by themselves are known as halogens, Is of no use to anyone,
it may as well be forgotten. These elements are chlorine, fluorine,
bromine and iodine. This knowledge Is of no benefit, either. When
th students learn to make these gases In the laboratory and learn
the uses to which they may be put In commercial and Industrial life
they have knowledge of Some benefit to them.
In like manner they learn the power of magnetism and the many
uses to which it may be assigned. Their human Interest Is aroused
and they investigate these things for their own cause.
The students are first taught to observe the things about them
the environment in which they llve then they penetrate the un
known principles. They study the mystic theory of gravity, the mag
netic force of the lodestone, the condition of heat, lighting and the
application of electricity, the sources of sound and the secrets of
All these secrets of nature, the marvelous laws of the universe,
are released in the laboratories of science. Modern application and
twentieth century methods of research place the truths of the ele
ments before the student in their simplest form.
You take a few pieces of zinc,
And put In your generator,
Add water, then plug in the cork
And pour in H2 8 04.
The action was not very brisk
When I put In H2 S 04,
So I tried nitric acid to see
If the thing wouldn't bubble up more.
As I wiped up the acid and zinc,
And swept up the glass from the floor,
I concluded I'd stick to directions
And try my own methods no more.
This Is the woeful melody of the college boy who "did" three solid
hours In the "chem lab" and wound up his day's career by blowing
a perfectly good experiment to smithereens. It would have ended
well, but he didn't follow directions, which simply goes to prove
that a fellow can't "monkey" with things in the chemical laboratory.
Dr. Senter further Illustrates the "monkey theory" by pointing to
the celling of his lecture room. The celling Is spattered and soiled
and besmeared with the wreckage and debris of experiments that
"went wrong." So violent was one' explosion that pieces of card
board have been Imbedded In the plaster not exactly Imbedded, but
they are on the ceiling Just the same.
get mixed up In the wrong combination there's bound to be a riot
among the elements.
Dr. Senter also has a bellows that he operates with his trusty
right foot. Sometimes he inflates tubes by blowing through a test
tube, but he always maintains that he can blow Just as well with his
foot as his mouth. Any student that doesn't appreciate Dr. Banter's
humor Isn't out for a high grade.
There are 120 young men and women studying chemistry in the
high school and there are 120 hearty laughs In his classes every day
In the year. He likes his work and he teaches his students to like
A little Journey to the physics or chemistry department of th
Omaha High school may be taken most any time of the day. Drop
Into the "chem lab" and meet Dr. Senter. You'll know him when
you see him. Most of him Is hidden behind a big rubber apron and!
the biggest part of his face is covered with a beard of the General
Grant variety. Dr. Senter will take you through his laboratory
where he teaches 120 students every day the mystic secrets of th
elements and will explain to you the Internal v orklngs of hii work
In that workshop is everything from the crude candle to a com
plete electric light plant. It won't take but a moment for you to be'
shown some of the phenomena of nature. A few things are mixed
together and then they begin to work. From a large glass converter,
a little hydrogen Is drawn off Into water and little bubbles arise. 4'
lighted taper Is touched to the bubbles and there's report that oat
the average giant cannon cracker beaten to a kazee. Dr. Senter says
the action la caused by the combustion cf the gases when 112 is added
to O, which gives the chemical equation H2 plus O equals HI O,
whatever that Is. . ' 1
Come Near Defying Laws
All Necessary Apparatus
On Dr. Senter's lecture table are water and gas fixtures, oxygen
and hydrogen generators, a compressed air tank, a vacuum, storage
batteries and a hundred and one little bottles and tubes filled with
the elements and co-elements of science. If -these various things
When the students get their chemical paraphernalia lined up and
working they come about as neai defying the laws of nature as a
Wright aeroplane. From the students' workbenches astonishing re
sults are shown In a remarkably short space of time. Little demons
of fire, or even the devil incarnate himself, seem to aid In perform
ing the feats of the wizard.
Each student In chemistry at the high school has a large expert
ment table with individual locker compartment, supplies, etc. Each
table is supplied with bottles of acid, various elements, a sink, gat
for supplying heat to Bunsen burners, electric connection and run
ning water. Then In the laboratory are various supplies and ma
chanlcal contrivances for general use In the laboratory.
Nearly all experiments are performed Individually by the students,
though there are some that have to be worked out by two operators.
Data is recorded and results computed by the students from their
personal observation. In this way they virtually learn the secrets of
Dr. Senter has a way of arousing Intense Interest among the young
folks In their work. He can talk technical matter in such a way that
It is Interesting even though It's plain facts and figures. The way
he talks sense In a funny way and emits humor and sunshine la Just
like a slap on the shoulders from a friend when you are feeling blue.
Students are taught to work; In his classes, for there Is no placa
there for the drone or loafer. He wants his boys and girls to work
and work hard, and he teaches them to work and to enjoy their pur
suits. He makes the study of chemistry interesting for them.
In the department of physics it Is the same story. The labora
tory is the workshop where results are obtained. It Is tha shop
where students get the practical experience and from experiment
and deductions the students learn the science of physics.
House Boats on River That Have to Be Taxed
Problems of the Gears
RECENT news dispatches said that a
couple of the Mississippi valley '
states are again agitating the
question of taxing the houseboats
found in their waters. Every
once on a while the question Is brought up
in some state, but it always ends In the
houseboat man winning, for when one state
gets too hot for him all he has to do Is to
slip his cable and float away to a shore
where the authorities do not bother to col
lect taxes from a man whose home Is upon
About 1901 Kentucky Imposed a license
fee of $7.60 on all houseboats, with the re
quirement that the name and address of the
owner and the date the license expired be
exposed on the boat in a conspicuous place.
This measure was intended more as a police
regulation than anything else, as the more
lawleos of the river gypsies had become bold
in their depredations upon other people's
property. The houseboat men fought the
law on the ground that the Ohio being a nav
igable river, the commerce upon it cannot be
hampered by state taxes. The law was very
laxly enforced, however, and no cases were
ever pushed to a final decision.
The houseboats are usually scows or flat
boats abcut twenty feet long by ten or twelve
feet wide, roughly constructed of two-inch
planks spiked together and calked with
oakum and rags and the seams made water
tight with pitch or tar. A small, low house
Is built upon the boat and covers about two
thirds or more of It, leaving a cockpit or else
a raised platform at each end from which
the crew work the sweeps or oars when they
are the means of propulsion used.
The house is divided off Into from one to
five rooms, depending upon the size of the
family and the size of the boat. While
many are cheaply constructed, others are
equal to a well appointed land cottage. In
many Instances rough bunks or berths are
constructed on the sides for sleeping quar
ters. A cooking stove is set up in the house
and its sheet iron pipe projecting through
the roof takes the place of a chimney. Some
of the boats are operated by power.
The better class are well equipped with
furniture, a few even having organs and
other musical instruments, but of recent
years the graphophone and phonograph have
proved the most popular of musical instru
ments, and when two or three are moored
together the crews usually entertain each
other In the evening by each In turn placing
the instrvments on the roof of the boat and
playing their entire repertoire.
The crews of these shanty boats, as they
are locally named, are well named river gyp
sies, as they are water uomads. . Today they
may be found tied up at Wheeling, W. Va.,
a couple ot weeks later they may be at Ports
mouth. O.; a llttlo later at Louisville, Ky.;
then at Cairo, 111., whence they float out Into
and down the Mississippi, stopping on the
way at New Madrid, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.;
Natchez and Vlcksburg, MUa., and Baton
Rouge and Bayou Sara, La., winding up
finally at New Orleans. There the boat is
old and the owner and his family return to
the Ohio by steamer, to repeat the trip again
the next year. There Is a fascination about
the life which cannot be appreciated unless
one has experienced It. The houseboat
dwellers are not stifled by convention, for
such conventions as they have are of home
manufacture. They are a law unto them
selves; they pay no rent or taxes and, above
all, their life is utterly without responsi
bility. The shanty boat folks come from all
stages of society. Many are young married
couples just starting out In life and hoping
In a few years to acquire enough of this
world's goods to enable them to settle down
on land. Workmen In manufacturing estab
lishments located In the river towns live on
the water In order to save taxes and rent.
A few invalids seek health outdoors In this
fashion and there are some plain tramps who
have no higher ambition In life than to get
through It with the least possible exertion.
Among the tramps are found the riff-raff
of the river, whose lawless practices have
caused them to be dreaded by shore people
and the better class of shanty boatmen. Most
of their time, when they are not stealing,
eating, drinking or sleeping, Is spent In play
ing cutthroat euchre, of which they are Inor
dinately fond. Quarrels are of frequent oc
currence during these games and sometimes
a murder is bidden by the waters of the
Many of the tramps' boats are run down
by steamers in the night, owing to all the
crew being drunk or asleep and no light be
ing shown. Many are wrecked on snags or
(Continued on Page Four.)
The teaching of physics has been a problem that has confronted
school authorities for years. Within two decades there has been
a complete change In methods. The students are not taught ac
cording to the modern system, but they are aided in learning for
themselves. They are tojd how to set up an apparatus and are in
structed in the matter of conducting an experiment, but the actual
work in the laboratory Is. done personally by the student, the result
tabulated and the deductions made. Such a system gives the mental
training that need emphasis and It also Inspires in the boya and
girls a living enthusiasm for the subject at hand, and develops la
them the scientific habit of mind, the ability to utilize knowledge
and a just appreciation of the significance of natural phenomena.
Dr. Herbert A Senter Is bead of the department of chemistry,'
Along about 1897 he stood before a class In the Omaha High school
for the first time and told the crowd to watch him and do likewise.
Herbert Senter la a Comhusker. He graduated from the University
of Nebraska at Lincoln and then decided be didn't know all there was
to know about chemistry, so he cut the foam for Heidelberg. When
hecame back from Germany he was Herr Dockter Senter.
Dr. Senter Is affability Itself. To those who are entente cordials
at bis laboratory or clam room and this represents bis students and
all others he radiates good nature and good cheer and wisdom and
logic. All the students love their teacher, too. He treats them til
alike and has no favorites. He is popular with all. Dr. Senter Uvea
on the sunny side of the street and leaves room for others.
Prof. Nathan Bernstein Is head of the department of physics.
"Nate" Bernstein Is an Omaha High school alumnus. After his
graduation he went to the White mountains of New Hampshlr and
matriculated at Dartmouth college. Along about 1902 be knew about
ail there was to know about physics and came west He served a
good term under the azure skies of Colorado at Trinidad, then cam
back to Omaha. This was in 1897. .
Prof. Bernstein teaches physics, or rather teaches the students to
teach themselves. When they learn their lesson well be teaches
them that Dartmouth Is the best college In the world. He can throw
verbal pyrotechnics about things physiological that show that ha
knows physics from p to s. His greatest formula Is "Wah Hoo Wan."
He learned this while studying physics up on the Connecticut rtTr
on the New Hampshire side.
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