Saturday, January 19, 2013

No words

There are moments every day, every minute, really, when words only get in the way. And yet any attempt to lose our words just makes us more alone.


Crocuses are made up mostly of air. The same tiny pieces of egg I ate this morning are now flying out of my body with every breath, and many of these same pieces will end up in the plants sitting out by the maple tree, also made up mostly from air.

Every now and again, a child trusts me (though not the science) enough to believe this, but to believe this without demanding sufficient evidence reduces the science to magical thinking.

So we hide our magical thinking in code:

CO2 + H2O → C6H12O6 + O2

Easy enough to memorize, easy enough to test, and another child finishes her years of formal schooling missing out on the beauty around her.

(I think I borrowed this from Jessica Pierce.)


This is terribly sad.

No, not missing the beauty of knowing the flow of particles from her cells to plants then back to her again. Grasping that requires a little bit more chemistry (and madness) than most sophomores can muster.

I keep slugs in my classroom--not sure they fit in the curriculum.

The real sin is this--our children sit in rooms studying science as catechism, because we test science as catechism, and outside, just a few feet away from her classroom window, the thing we call "tree" sits unnoticed as it creeps its way towards the sun.






One day I took my students outside, told them to find a tree, and describe it in their science notebooks.
That may have been the most important thing I've done for that class all year.

4 comments:

Malcolm said...

One day I took my students outside, told them to find a tree, and describe it in their science notebooks.
That may have been the most important thing I've done for that class all year

Amen.

kguhin said...

I hate it when teachers teach science as a list of terms to memorize. Yes, students need to know the vocabulary, but science is so much more than that! It would be like learning Spanish by memorizing all of the vocabulary but never having a conversation with anyone, or reading a book in Spanish, or watching a movie in Spanish. Learning science by memorization is just as soulless.

sehauser said...

I overheard one of the elementary school age patients at my job reciting all the meteorology terms she had to remember for a test:
Barometer, cumulus clouds, thermometer, stratus clouds, anemometer and, on and on.
I couldn't help wonder if she has had the opportunity to stare at the sky on a cold gray day when low clouds seem to cover everything, then perhaps a few months later on a hot day stare up at the same sky and notice there seem to only be a few wispy white clouds hanging about.
Heck, I wonder if she gets to spend much time outside at all.

doyle said...

Dear Malcolm,

I really no longer know what else to do--the more I realize what this requires, the more I realize that we're doing it wrong....


Dear kguhin,

"Soulless" is an interesting word choice, and, I think, the right one. I love the language analogy. Why else learn Spanish?



Dear sehauser,

Our children are losing the sky, the stars, the clouds, the smell of geosmin, the flutter of wings.

I worry I am contributing to this. I need to remember why I got into this business.....

Thanks, everyone, for your words. January is a tough time.