Monday, January 23, 2012

Breathing biology

We got beans growing in our classroom. Three gorgeous rattlesnake pods hanging from a vine, the soft purple puff of a flower between the second and third bean.

Most of the stuff that makes up these beans is carbon dioxide, much of it from the breath of all those who share ideas here in our room.

Carbon dioxide from yesterday's Pop Tarts,
Snapples, and bologna sandwiches.
Carbon dioxide that traveled through the hearts 
of every child in our class.
Carbon dioxide expelled as a sigh, 
broken down by a few brain cells that would
rather do anything but this school thing.
Carbon dioxide that is invisible and soft as a baby's breath
as real as the ancient massive maple tree 
just outside our classroom window.
Carbon dioxide children are taught to fear as "bad,"
the harbinger of catastrophic climate change.

We ruin it, this carbon dioxide communion, reducing it to hieroglyphics on a page, to be regurgitated by spilling bubbles on a sheet, a religiously messy communion of sorts sterilized to a formula:

C6H12O6 +6 O2  =>  6H2O + 6CO2

And yet, for a moment, the moment before eating the bean, a few students allow themselves the beauty and the power of the story to let them believe what they've always known to be true, that this whole life business, as messy and complicated and incomprehensible as it seems, gets down to this:

Each living thing, every living thing, shares an intimate bond that goes beyond the language of science, beyond the language of art, beyond human boundaries.

The universe belongs to all of us, as we belong to it.

No matter how we do in school, no matter what we know, now matter what we do.

I would trade all the biochemical pathways we "teach" for a child's grasping, for more than a moment, 
that we are indeed the stuff of the universe around us, and that this stuff cycles through us, is us.


Malcolm said...

Dr. Doyle,
love your writing and your teaching. many things you say and do in your classroom i have said and done in mine.

i need to get me a science class again...!

Anonymous said...

Drinking dino pee, eating coal, and living on a giant nuclear reactor. Science is fabulous.

doyle said...

Dear Malcolm,

Thanks for the warm words--and on days I can't wander along the edge of a bay, a science classroom full of bright young adults is a pretty good place to be.

Dear Anonymous,

Science may well be fabulous, but you got your stories a bit tangled up.