The Earth spins around its axis. Most of us have reduced this to another abstract, the clock. We can know the time by looking at our watches, again without leaving our windowless room.
I have a lot of discussions with other science teachers that start with "I cannot believe they don't get this..."
And I'm starting to get why they don't get things. My students live in a windowless world, fed through electronic media. Even numbers have lost much of their meaning beyond symbols on a hand-held machine.
If you have no reference beyond your windowless room, you don't have any particular reason to "get" anything unless a penalty or reward is attached to getting it. So we test and test and test some more. And the kids keep not getting it.
I am going to drag my children outside of their windowless rooms. Next year I am starting a phenology project in class.
***Life is not abstract.
First lightning bug two nights ago, a few more last night.
The prickly pears have been blooming for 10 days now.
The croakers will be moving near the jetty's any day now.
Phenology is the study of the periodic cycles in biology--finding the first robin of spring is phenology. Chasing the peak fall foliage in New England is phenology.
Me telling kids that on average lightning bugs start their mating rituals mid-June is abstract, no matter how fancy the projector or the font. Sending them outside each night to find a lightning bug doing its thing reconnects children to the real.
Phenology is old-fashioned observational high school biology. You can do it without knowing anything about macromolecules.
Biology traditionally precedes chemistry and physics in high school because back in the 1890's, that made sense--biology was was a lot easier. High school biology today requires biochemistry, and asking 15 year olds to process macromolecules a year before they have studied chemistry is going to lead to a lot of not getting it.
So I am going back to the 19th century, but I'll add a 21st century twist. We'll start a class blog.