Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cheap tools for kindergaten (Part 2)

rLots of children grow plants, a worthy endeavor. A child observes the development of a seed to seedling to flower back to seedling. Whole university courses could revolve around this. The whole living universe does.

It's a start....a good one. Let's push it a bit.

Where does the stuff of plants come from?

Ask a child. Heck, ask an adult. An oak tree can weigh over a couple of tons. Most people think its stuff comes from the ground. If it did, most trees would be sunken into the ground. But they're not.

Weigh the seed and the dirt that holds it, then in a few months, weigh the plant and the dirt again. It will weigh a bit more. No need to get into the "science"--noting the difference in mass is the science, plenty for a young child.

If the child should want more, though, here's a fun thing you can do with your numberless scale mentioned in the last post:

Place a small cup of vinegar and a dollop of baking soda next to it on one side,a few pebbles of equivalent mass on the other so that the scale is balanced. Now drop the baking powder into the vinegar. Watch the scale.

The cup of vinegar and baking soda will start to rise. If the child has been using the scale before this, she will realize something interesting is happening. The pebbles have not changed, the fizzing vinegar obviously has. Where did it stuff go?

What happens if you plant a seed upside down? We (the adult folk) don't think much about this, because it's not an issue. But it's an interesting question. What happens if you turn a seedling upside down? A nearly grown plant?

If you tell a child she must put this seed in exactly that position, well, you may as well stick with the PearsonEducation package.

What happens if you use blue light? What happens if you water it with milk? What happens if you pluck off a leaf? What happens what happens what happens what happens.....?

Let's see! Let's see!

And if a child would rather stare at the ant wending its way of the stem, then let her watch. Language and mathematics help define our world, help define the Platonic shadows that surround us, but if we push language before a child has a chance to recognize the world, she will be trapped chasing shadows of shadows, as so many of us do.

There's was beauty long before there was language, before there were numbers, a beauty many of us can no longer see because of language and numbers.

The wildflowers were found in Ireland, the eggplants in our backyard. Either Leslie or I took them.

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