At the conference, Eric mentioned that he got his digital start with a guest post on a fellow administrator's blog. Two days after I heard that, a fellow teacher wondered if she might guest post on mine.
Her name is Susan Eckert, an erstwhile genetics counselor. She has two children--David, who just turned 6, and Julianne, who's not much older.
I woke up late on Monday morning and asked my daughter, Julianne, if she could just have hot lunch today (such a treat to not have to pack a lunch).
“No!” she cried, “We’re going to the planetarium and I want to bring my own lunch!” That’s right! She had been excitedly talking about her upcoming field trip to the planetarium for days. And so when I posed the requisite “How was your day?” question after school, I was a bit surprised to hear her thoughts on the field trip.
She paused, she thought, she seemed a bit deflated. She carefully chose her words and then she slowly told me she didn’t really like the planetarium because she wishes she had “more knowledge” about it.
Hmmm, this needed to be explored. I probed, asked her a few more questions, specifically on whether she had learned anything. And her response was a mixture of words about “adoms” in her pinky exploding and blowing up the whole town.
She had no idea what that meant (not sure I do, either) but that is what stuck with her. The lasting impression, though, is that she is now a little turned off to planetariums, the stars, the moon, and the planets because she was confused much of the time. Jules seemed to almost feel guilty telling her science teacher mommy about this but I truly appreciated her honesty.
My daughter’s homework that night was good, very good. She was asked to be a critic and to review the planetarium trip. I could get on my soapbox about what I think some of the shortcomings of elementary science education are but I think the earnest words of an 8 year-old tell the story perfectly. And so here are some her words:
I didn’t really like the glenfield planetarium. Because I didn’t really know a lot of the words the guy said… I think people who like space movies like star wars would understand. And people who don’t know what rambunctious means wouldn’t understand. Also the guy would be talking about atoms and not explain what atoms are. And he also got me confused about what he said.
[Sidenote: Knowing what the word rambunctious means and how to spell it is some kind of intellectual litmus test for my daughter.]
As educators, we tend to say too much. I have done this and I still do but I am much more aware of it these days. Our intentions are often good but in our eagerness to teach children about the wonders of the natural world, we sometimes do the complete opposite—we kill their curiosity.
When should children learn about atoms? NJCCCS says by grade 8. I don’t really know but I’m pretty sure it’s not during second grade. Before I entered into education, I would tell my own children all kinds of facts and I tried to ignore their eyes glazing over. And now that I know a bit more about teaching science I try to say much less. It’s my new mantra: just be quiet. I’ll have to undo this—I’ve already put the North Jersey Astronomical Group Telescope Night sponsored at Montclair State University on our calendar. And I swear that I’m going to keep my mouth shut and just let my children do the talking.
Addendum: This morning, two days after Julianne went to the planetarium, I signed my son’s permission slip to go on the same field trip. “Oh, you’re so lucky! I love it there!” she said to her brother.
Huh? When I questioned her about this considering what she wrote just two days prior, she explained that it’s still really cool to be there and look up at the ceiling. What she saw had a more lasting impression than the confusing words buzzing in her ears. I wondered if this diminishes my message, but after further reflection, I think it just amplifies it: let our words not distract from their wonderment.
Please comment liberally--I want Ms. Eckert and her little one to get hooked on this blogging thing....