|A handful of grace|
Yesterday, the last day of the darkest 6 weeks of the year, my seeds came through the mail. Little paper packets holding tiny pockets of life.
The cold snap killed the dill and the daikon, and wounded the rosemary bush. Winter around here is hard on all of us, but the light is returning to put the pieces back together again.
Yesterday, I raked a few critters from the mudflat, put a few back, and ate the rest. Each quahog I wrestle from the mud feels like a miracle, each one a palm's worth of grace.
Ask a child what food is, and listen--we have a generation of American kids who believe that food is energy, and why not? Most of what they see as real is nothing but photons on a glass screen, much of what they hear vibrations dancing to the whims of two magnets pushed and pulled by the ideas of other humans.
Just about every day I ask my lambs where did this come from? Who put together its parts. Where were its atoms before its atoms were this? What is thisness?
It's a big question.
Much of what passes as science curriculum rests on the assumption that we know what matter is, what energy is. I suppose a few people do, but I'm not one of them. That matter is conserved in our day to day Newtonian universe is a huge idea, and every day I forget this.
My clams are made of non-clam stuff, put together by the clams to make more clamstuff in the universe. I took the living part of their clamstuff, broke down some of it to use to replace some of my humanstuff, and exhaled the rest as carbon dioxide.
I am close enough to the bay that some of the atoms of the carbon dioxide I breathed out decades ago ended up in the clams I killed last night.
Without grasping this at a local (and very real) level, the rest of biology is, well, dull, unless your goal is to get a degree, get a job, and use science education as a means to something else. The Next Generation Science Standards says as much:
If the nation is to compete and lead in the global economy and if American students are to be able to pursue expanding employment opportunities in science-related fields, all students must have a solid K–12 science education that prepares them for college and careers.
I don't know what "solid" means, but I'm guessing it's not happening in my classroom. I believe it cannot happen until my lambs have some sense that the returning light makes life possible.
I want to help them literally see the light around them, the light that has existed long before humans roamed the planet, light that will likely shine long after we're gone.
Every day I put the local sunset time on the board. Every few weeks I point out the changing shadows in the room.
Tomorrow I will again ask where did this come from? What was it last week, last year, a decade ago, a thousand years ago? On Friday the "this" was the plastic lid of a coffee cup, tomorrow it may be the shell of a clam that was nestled in a mudflat yesterday.
Halfway between the solstice and Groundhog Day, back into November light.
And we're still here.