Middle school car show a metaphor for evolution

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Gina Duwe
Thursday, September 26, 2013

EVANSVILLE--A group of excited seventh-grade girls bounced in and out of the black 2007 Porsche Boxster S, snapping photos of each other in the driver's seat with their cellphones Thursday afternoon.

“Be very careful,” one girl told her friends.

It was the only day they're allowed to sit in their principal's car or even see the Porsche in the parking lot at J.C. McKenna Middle School in Evansville.

“I was in three awesome cars!” one girl said dancing around.

Principal Robert Flaherty's car was one of about 20 on display during the afternoon car show, the fourth annual event organized by seventh-grade science teacher Bruce Curtis.

He uses the car show as a metaphor for evolution.

“A slow, gradual change in moving things. Here we have a slow, gradual change in vehicles,” he said.

The show included a 1960s Mini Cooper and a new Mini, as well as a 1963 Corvette and a new Corvette.

“So they can see how models have slowly changed over time,” Curtis said. “That's what we're using it for—a metaphor.” 

The kids ran around talking to the car owners, who came from around the Madison area, to answer questions on a worksheet.

Loren Ziglin of Cross Plains had a steady stream of students at his 13-year-old red Ferrari 360 Modena, which he allowed them to sit in for photos.

Ziglin and Curtis, a big Ferrari fan, met at the weekly car night at Quaker Steak & Lube in Middleton four years ago when their discussion led to teaching through “show and tell,” Ziglin said.

“I teach science through race cars,” Ziglin recalls Curtis telling him.

They rallied their car friends, and the show has been a hit with the kids since.

One year, they had an old electric car next to a Chevy Volt, Ziglin said.

“Full circle, right?” he said.

Student James Henn was excited for the show and snapped photos of each car.

“I just love cars,” he said. “I want to have a collection of these kind of cars. Fix them up, then ship them off all across the world to different car shows.”

Most of the cars were not the type you'd see driving down the highway any given day, including two three-wheeled cars hauled by trailer to the show.

Student Maria Moscato was a fan of the tiny cars: the Coopers and the three-wheelers, a 1950s Messerschmitt bubble car that opened by tipping up the roof and a two-seat Heinkel with a sunroof.

“I just wanted to see the time difference between cars because you don't really get to see that,” Moscato said.

Kids often asked Ziglin how much his Ferrari cost and how he bought it.

“Which is great,” he said, because in the classroom he talked with students about passion and focus. “We try to instill in them that you have to work hard … and come up with a plan to get there because that's how everybody did this,” he said, referring to the car owners at the show.

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