Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dancing with the stars

When someone says, "Science teaches such and such," he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn't teach anything; experience teaches it.
Richard Feynman, 1966 NSTA Convention, NYC

I live in New Jersey.

If you spend an hour or two watching the sun rise, you'll notice that it rises sideways here.
If you watch the stars looking east, they rise sideways as well.

A huge problem with what we call science education is that we think we've educated our children because they "know" the Earth spins on its axis, and that it revolves around the sun.

Yet the few that notice the stars, the curious ones, are still surprised when some stars rise sideways faster than others, some travel in circles, and one doesn't move at all.

You can show this on a computer, but that's pointless, because on a computer I can make stars do anything I, a human, want them to do.

The Earth spins. Imagine that.
Now go convince your kids.


John Spencer said...

The first time we went out of the city, Joel said, "There's so many stars you can't even count them." I had told him that before. I had told him about light pollution and why there aren't too many stars in our neighborhood. It took him experiencing it to believe it.

I remember reading about light pollution and how certain animals need the sky to help them know where to go. I wonder if we need stars to help us stay oriented as well, but try convincing that to people who think GPS is more accurate.

Rick Biche said...

How do we make learning really count, really stick?

Late one night on a roof top in South America I watched the constellations rise to the night sky. Orion came up feet first.

I was in my 30's. I "got it" that night.

doyle said...

Dear John,

We need darkness as much as we need dark, true dark.

It's hard to believe that we, too, do not need the night sky.

I believe this much--a night under dark skies on a moonless night gives hubris a swift kick in the pants. Every father owes a child at least one night outside, all night, surrounded by starlight and the critters of the night.

Dear Rick,


(Leslie loved your response so much she made sure I saw it, which I had, of course--some comments, though, stand on their own.)

Kathryn J said...

There is a dark sky park in Pennsylvania that I want to visit with my kids. Some of my favorite memories are of watching the stars spin around Polaris at summer, outdoor concerts. One bluegrass festival that I used to attend pre-kids usually included a Saturday night jam session that lasted until the sky started to brighten in the east.

You're right. We don't spend enough time outside.