Published Online: November 25, 1998
Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Take Note

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Mailed Memories

Just as memories of high school begin to fade, Don Midway sends his former students a reminder.

For more than 25 years, the sociology teacher at Liberty High School in the 14,000-student Bethlehem, Pa., district has asked his 11th and 12th graders to write letters to themselves, complete with descriptions of their lives, friends, favorite music, and activities.

Students put their journals in a large envelope, along with notes collected from relatives and their own predictions of what they will be doing in five years, when the packages are returned to them.

As the holiday season approaches each year, Mr. Midway mails out the stack of self-addressed, stamped envelopes. Inevitably, a flood of phone calls and letters follows from former students touched and surprised by the time capsules.

For one student, Mr. Midway recalls, receipt of the package was particularly emotional. After returning from his grandfather's funeral, the student opened his parcel only to discover a letter his grandfather had written five years earlier.

"At first, they look at me as if I'm a poisonous insect," Mr. Midway said. It often takes time for them to realize the value of self-examination, he added.

Shuttle Lessons

Eight Texas students are helping researchers analyze bacteria samples that flew on the space shuttle Discovery.

Robert McLean, an associate professor of biology at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, said the goal was to see if bacteria could attach to surfaces in weightless conditions, which if true could lead to problems such as water-purification systems clogging during long periods in space.

Mr. McLean and a research associate grew the bugs and sent them to a scientific-instrument company that packaged them for this month's flight. Mr. McLean collected the specimens from NASA after the shuttle returned Nov. 7.

The students--from Travis Middle School in Port Lavaca and Scudder Primary and Bowen Intermediate schools in Wimberly--are helping Mr. McLean analyze the samples.

He plans to send the students some of the raw data that he is compiling, and he will have them do calculations and then compare their results with his own.

Mr. McLean said he hopes "to do more shuttle missions. I'd be more than happy to work with students; it's fun sharing the excitement."

--KATHLEEN KENNEDY MANZO & ANDREW TROTTER

Vol. 18, Issue 13, Page 3

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