Teacher Feature of the Week: Mr. Fischer’s Astronomy Class is out of this World

The walls fully adorned with Star Wars action figure, Star Trek bobble heads, and life size Marvel superhero cutouts.

Every Friday morning, a sweet chorus of ukuleles swells from the door, and every Tuesday during class the lights are dimmed as students tilt their heads to study the celestial bodies above.

The man behind this classroom answers to titles as eclectic as the items and activities he is associated with: Sensei, Jedi Master, and for the truly daring- O Captain my Captain.

Mr. Kirk Fischer teaches both chemistry and astronomy at Wando, and although teaching students about covalent bonds occupies about two thirds of his class time, his true passion is teaching students about the cosmos, and he is Wando’s only astronomy teacher.

“About 16 years ago I started an astronomy club. The following year I was called into Lucy Beckham’s office, she heard about the club and asked if I’d be interested in teaching an astronomy class….,” Fischer said. “Naturally I jumped at the chance, [and] I feel like the class has improved every year since then.”

Fischer welcomes student’s suggestions as to how to make the class better, and said that some of the best components of the class, have been student ideas.

“Many of the best parts of the class have come from ideas and contributions, and the class is still evolving,” Fischer said. “Some of the most recent changes have been the incorporation of cell phone technology into the classroom experience. There are a lot of good astronomy applications out there and we want to use the best.”

He even found a way to incorporate light sabers into the classroom, teaching students about different frequencies of light.

Fischer’s astronomy class also boasts a “giant” student made screen projection to watch videos and take virtual field trips around the galaxy and into the outer reaches of the cosmos. And an unusual aspect of his class, is that much of it is spent in the dark.

“I would estimate that about one third of the time, the lights are off in my classroom,” Fischer said. “…Often we learn via surround sound presentation in the dark with [the student’s] red lights out, where a section of the text book is read over the speakers and music plays.”

Wando Astronomy is also filled with both, what Fischer calls “teasers” and “mind blowing facts.”

“Teasers are questions that are raised either by a student or the teacher, that aren’t answered right away….I would rather students discover the answer for themselves, rather than simply tell them,” Fischer said. “Mind blowing facts are just that,” he added. “There are a lot of strange and wonderful things out there, many of which truly stretch our brain’s understanding of what is normal or even possible.”

Fischer is also the sponsor for Wando’s Ukulele club, that meets every friday morning.

“I think [I’ve been playing] for about seven years now, and I have owned well over 50 and I have a collection of just plastic ones that are antique,” Fischer said. “And we’re going to have a concert this year. A concert like none have ever seen!”

No matter what class or club students have Fischer for, as they leave the room, their ears always ring with the same call…“Take Astronomy!”