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Teacher Lets Students Experience Lessons Firsthand

February 4, 1985

GLENCOE, Ill. (AP) _ Students in Marvin Martin’s classroom have marveled at the beauty of the Grand Canyon, trekked across a glacial bed in Montana and enjoyed a Broadway play. Martin, who’s taken students to 43 states and four Canadian provinces, considers all the world his classroom.

″There’s no better way to learn about a glacial bed than to step out on one in Glacier National Park,″ said Martin, who has taught in this Chicago suburb since 1957. ″The world comes alive for young people when they experience it firsthand. It becomes something special.″

Martin, who teaches literature to seventh- and eighth-graders at Central School, said he’s never confined his class to four walls. ″If I had my way, I would put my students in a plane and fly them to the places we’re studying.″

He and and his students, who must pay for the trips, have logged thousands of miles over the years in visits to sites most youngsters only read about. An inveterate globetrotter, he has enlivened his classes with slides and artifacts from his trips to Europe and Africa.

″I always wanted to break the traditions,″ Martin said.

Last summer, a group of his students learned a geology lesson as they hiked the Grand Canyon and cascaded through the white water of the Snake River Canyon.

On another trip, Martin and his students immersed themselves in American Colonial history as they visited landmarks and battlefields in Lexington, Concord and Boston in history-rich Massachusetts.

The teaching technique is also effective for the arts, Martin said. ″If you want to learn about music, you listen. If you want to learn about painting, you look. If you want to learn about theater, you attend.″

Martin, who studied journalism at Northwestern University, instills an appreciation of the theater by taking his students to Broadway during week- long trips to New York. He often escorts them to theatrical productions in Chicago.

Martin has put thousands of his students before the footlights in the 36 plays he’s staged. Martin, who writes most of the plays the youths put on, said a production lets them act out the themes they study in their texts.

He has no children of his own and takes pride in the fact that several of his students have gone on to leading roles on Broadway and in Chicago theater. Others have distinguished themselves in the broadcast industry.

″I think the nicest compliment I received was from a student who wrote and told me he based his junior-year theme on his experience in my class,″ he said. ″Teaching is an unusual profession like social work or psychiatry. You work toward certain ends and goals, but by the time your work is about to take root your subject has left you.

″But I can plant a seed and hope they grow to appreciate what they’ve learned here.″