It took an unusual science teacher to see the pedagogic value in "roadkill,'' that eyesore for motorists.
It took "Dr. Splat.''
Brewster Bartlett, who's known by that name to his 9th-grade science class at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., is the creator of the "Roadkill Monitoring Project,'' a science program that recently brought together 30 schools in seven New England states to study unlucky animal pedestrians.
Mr. Bartlett developed the science project together with teachers at Simmons College in Boston as a somewhat more thrilling alternative to a planned lesson on lichen measurement.
"I couldn't see the students doing that,'' Mr. Bartlett says.
Using his curriculum guide, several hundred students in grades 9 through 12 spent mid-April through mid-May scanning country roads for telltale signs of fur, animal remains, and tire marks.
The students dutifully recorded the remains of 1,600 animals, including more than 450 gray squirrels, hundreds of beavers, some raccoons, 10 moose, and several species of "URP,'' or "unidentified road pizza.''
While a computer at Simmons College kept track of the hard-won statistics, transmitted each week via a computer linkup, the students studied the habits of the deceased species they'd found. They also proposed theories to explain how the creatures met their untimely roadside fates, from the mating habits of birds, to mosquito-ridden moose, to victims of badly timed migrations.
Next year, Mr. Bartlett hopes to introduce the project to schools nationwide through the Internet computer network.--S.K.G.