Saturday, February 27, 2016

School science II: breakfast

Wheat grown in our classroom,
breaths shared in wheat berries.

If you want to understand your breakfast in a school health way, you say "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," cut off the box top of the Lucky Charms™ cereal for your child's school and feed the myths that feed the children about as well as the sugared and dyed oats in her cereal bowl.

She goes to school, learns that trees make sugar out of sunlight, and memorizes the script  to pass her test on photosynthesis.

6CO2 + 6H2O => C6H12O6 + 6O2

She does so well her exam goes up on the fridge, a cold box in the kitchen that holds the fruits of labors she can recite without understanding.

While she took the test, holding her number 2 pencil with tightly clenched fingers, quick breaths betrayed her anxiety, carrying away molecules of carbon dioxide just moments deep inside her muscles cells squeezing the number two pencil, rotating the pencil just so, keeping the mark within the circles.

These tiny pieces of stuff of and from this child bounced around the room, bumping into millions upon millions of others, until a few minutes later, a few randomly passed through a tiny opening in the base of a leaf of a bean plant sitting on the window sill, one of many planted by the children when they started the photosynthesis unit.

The plant took this piece of her, and using the light energy from the sun that appears to rise because our Earth spins, welded this piece of her to a larger piece of the plant, and the plant grew a teeny bit larger.

The pea plant will eventually make it home, too, to sit on the radiator by the window, where it will die in a couple of weeks from neglect, as the test emblazoned with the A hangs onto the refrigerator door well into late spring, a marker of what matters to a child's mother, and now, what matters to a child.

Today is plant a bean with your child day.


Susan Eckert said...

One year a student told me that she planted the beans we started in class in her backyard. She was upset, though, because someone, her cousin I believe, had mowed them down. I offered her my condolences on the loss of her bean plants. But I was secretly thrilled that she took the time to dig in the Earth to make a space so her bean plants could grow. It impressed me much more than any grade I might have scribbled on her tests that year.

doyle said...

Dear Susan,

I think growing stuff in class is the single most powerful we do in biology classes.

We do an AP evolution lab each year, selecting out traits in plants, trying to influence the traits in a population. The experiment often ends disastrously for a variety of reasons, but the students, mostly seniors, get to see a plant go from seed to seedling to flower to seed pod and back to seed again.

For many of them, it's the most important lesson of the year.