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Kids are very Spiritual

The Well Column December 24, 2012

The Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love
By TARA PARKER-POPE on Living Well

Jeffrey Wright is well known around his high school in Louisville, Ky., for his antics as a physics teacher, which include exploding pumpkins, hovercraft and a scary experiment that involves a bed of nails, a cinder block and a sledgehammer.

But it is a simple lecture — one without props or fireballs — that leaves the greatest impression on his students each year. The talk is about Mr. Wright’s son and the meaning of life, love and family.

It has become an annual event at Louisville Male Traditional High School (now coed, despite its name), and it has been captured in a short documentary, “Wright’s Law,” which recently won a gold medal in multimedia in the national College Photographer of the Year competition, run by the University of Missouri.

The filmmaker, Zack Conkle, 22, a photojournalism graduate of Western Kentucky University and a former student of Mr. Wright’s, said he made the film because he would get frustrated trying to describe Mr. Wright’s teaching style. “I wanted to show people this guy is crazy and really amazing,” Mr. Conkle said in an interview.

The beginning of the film shows Mr. Wright, now 45, at his wackiest. A veteran of 23 years teaching, he does odd experiments involving air pressure and fiery chemicals — and one in which he lies on a bed of nails with a cinder block on his chest. A student takes a sledgehammer and swings, shattering the block and teaching a physics lesson about force and energy.

But each year, Mr. Wright gives a lecture on his experiences as a parent of a child with special needs. His son, Adam, now 12, has a rare disorder called Joubert syndrome, in which the part of the brain related to balance and movement fails to develop properly. Visually impaired and unable to control his movements, Adam breathes rapidly and doesn’t speak.

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