‘Cranium’ award goes to Skeptics leader

Published 11:22 pm Thursday, February 26, 2009

It’s not typically easy to get high school students excited about science.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are a completely different story.

Last September, Lakeland High School Earth Science and Oceanography Teacher Marcus Daniels combined the two and created the Lakeland Skeptics Society. The group, comprising about 30 students, uses the scientific method to examine claims of paranormal or ghost-like activity going on in the community.

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To date there have been four investigations at two different locations to look for proof that the buildings were, in fact, haunted.

“There are paranormal research groups around the country,” Daniels said. “But to my knowledge we’re the only high school club. We’re really breaking new ground here.”

In less than a year, the club has created its own Web site, been featured in Haunted Times magazine and written about in newspapers.

In recognition of all the work Daniels has put in to promoting science in the community, Science and Reason in Hampton Roads — an organization of Old Dominion University students, faculty and community residents dedicated to promoting science — honored Daniels with its annual Cranium award.

The award is given to one person who has gone to great lengths to promote the discussion, research and debate of scientific practices and developments in the community.

Conversely, there is also an Empty Cranium handed out each year to the person who has done the most to destroy the further development of scientific thought. Daniels was grateful to be honored for the former, and not the latter.

“I’m glad I got the one I got,” he said.

Daniels said he was greatly honored by the award, but feels he is not due all the credit for the club’s success.

“I don’t consider is a personal feat at all,” he said. “It’s not really my award, even though my name is on it. This would not have happened if it were not for the kids. This is their club. They’ve got goals and things they want to explore and accomplish. I’m really more of a facilitator. I consider this their reward.”

Daniels said the club has big plans for the rest of the school year. Members have been invited to investigate Riddick’s Folly, and are hoping to stage a trip to Yorktown. Additionally, Daniels is setting up a separate club outside of the school for seniors to join once they have graduated.

“If I can get a kid to be involved in science after they graduate and (are) not in high school anymore, I’m going to do it,” he said. “As long as there are a couple of kids coming out, we’re going to keep on.”