Films That Teach

  • Dartmouth College math professor Dan Rockmore, photographed in Hanover, N.H., on March 2, 2017, is leading an effort to engage school children in science and math by showing popular films at the Nugget Theatre in Hanover with discussion afterwards. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

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    Matt Damon in a publicity still from the 2015 movie "The Martian." (20th Century Fox photograph)

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    Will Smith in a publicity still from the 2004 movie "I, Robot." (20th Center Fox photograph) 20th Century Fox photographs —

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2018 11:50:00 PM
Modified: 10/2/2018 12:05:08 AM

In Dan Rockmore’s ideal world, a major movie studio would let him screen excerpts from an upcoming, first-run feature with themes of science or math at its center for students in Upper Valley school classrooms.

While waiting for one of the film moguls to see it his way, the math professor is organizing a series of four free showings of past popular films on those subjects over this school year at the Nugget Theatre in Hanover, where several of his colleagues from Dartmouth College will lead discussions after each movie.

“This is one of those cases of not letting the perfect get in the way of the good,” Rockmore said last week. “Ideally, it would be so powerful to work with a studio ahead of time, while they’re doing their publicity run-up. Imagine with a movie like Hidden Figures how great it would be for teachers to show clips of the movie and then talk with students about the science or the math or the history involved. Then the kids in those classes would be energized to go see a move that, if it was marketed as an educational movie, nobody would go to see it.”

The series, scheduled for Monday school holidays, begins next week with I, Robot, the 2004 dystopian sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith as a policeman investigating a crime involving a robot. Computer-science professor Alberto Quattrini Li will share his observations and entertain questions and comments after the lights come back up.

The Nugget also will show Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated 2016 docudrama about the woman mathematicians of color whose calculations in the 1960s were a key to the success of the space program, on Jan. 21, the holiday celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. At the end of that screening, Dartmouth history professor Rich Kremer will lead the discussion.

The other movies in the series include Contact, the 1997 adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel about the search for life beyond Earth, on Nov. 12, where the speaker is physics professor Marcelo Gleiser. And the series concludes on March 11 with 2015’s The Martian, the Academy Award-nominated picture starring Matt Damon as a resourceful astronaut stranded on the Red Planet, at which earth-science professor Marisa Palucis will speak.

Rockmore said he was inspired to try a film series in part by conversations he’s had with his own kids after movies they enjoyed together. After he made no headway with his initial idea, Hanover Improvement Society general manager Jeff Graham suggested an alternative.

“He said, ‘You can just rent the Nugget,’ ” Rockmore recalled. “He and (Nugget manager) M Kaufman have been great partners in helping me set it up.

“It’s a ‘think globally, act locally’ approach.”

It’s also an approach for which Rockmore had no trouble finding colleagues to join.

“The recruiting for that was pretty much immediate,” he said. “Once this lineup was in place, I had six people coming up to me saying, ‘You know, I would have been happy to do it.’ The series is not only about learning science or math in an interesting context. It’s about meeting someone, say a person who works with robots.

“You get to ask, ‘How awesome is a life like that?’ ”

The STEM @ The Nugget film series begins Monday afternoon at 12:30 at the Nugget Theatres in Hanover. Admission is free.

On the Job Education

The New Hampshire Department of Education last week honored Hypertherm co-founder Barbara Couch, Haverhill legislator Rick Ladd and Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center teacher Scott Pope during the department’s inaugural Work-Based Learning Awards.

During a Sept. 25 ceremony at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, Couch, a Hanover resident, and Ladd, a Republican member of the state House of Representatives, were named overall “champions” for their efforts to help high school students in their communities learn skills on the job.

Pope, who teaches machine-tool skills and engineering at Sugar River, was one of three educators named teacher/faculty “champions.”

Collegiate Recognition

Lyme resident Caroline Rodi has been inducted into Saint Lawrence University’s chapter of Psi Chi, an international honor society for college students majoring in psychology. She qualified by maintaining grade-point averages of at least 3.3 overall and 3.4 in psychology courses, and by ranking in the top 35 percent of her class during her sophomore year. She is a graduate of Hanover High School.

■Six Upper Valley residents made the grade for the dean’s list at Bryant University for their academic performance during the spring 2018 semester at the Smithfield, R.I., school.

Earning dean’s list honors were West Lebanon residents Emily Perryman and Nathan Kriplin, Plainfield’s Peter Elder, Woodstock’s Shelby Gault, South Pomfret’s Conor Joyce and Newport’s Katelynn Muzzey.

■Lebanon resident Joshua Fontaine earned a place on the dean’s list at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for his academic performance during the spring 2018 semester. He is a senior majoring in exercise physiology.

Seals of Approval

The Upper Valley Waldorf School recently gained accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and from the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

The accreditations follow the school’s completion of upgrades to its early-20th-century building in downtown Quechee, and the addition of a wing for middle-school students.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304. Education-related news and announcements also can be sent to

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