(Well, actually Ray's blog roll) that I should have updated today. Handy of Ray's blog roll to remind me. I honestly didn't mean to go so many days without a post.
Life is picking up speed around here as the school year rolls in. The boys and I have been doing a unit study on art history, technique, and the science of color. Today we talked about light and refraction the length of waves. Once again I was reminded of how woefully inadequate my own science education was as I tried to break down advanced concepts and make it interesting.
Throughout middle school and high school, I had a science teacher named Mr. Moon. He was a balding pale man with thick coke-bottomed glasses and black frames with tape on the bridge. Mr Moon spoke in a monotone at all times and read the textbook out loud for our lessons. He blushed when he was asked about reproduction and skipped entire sections of biology. No I am not making that up. Cliches have to start somewhere don't they?
Mr. Moon killed science for me. I'm sure he didn't mean to, but I'm confident that all but the most tenacious students of science had a similar experience. Entering his classroom was to enter a room with scientific fact presented as something you poured into a concrete mold, slowly drop by drop, unexciting word after unexciting word. It set in the mold, unmovable, unchanging, untested, and undiscussed. When the time came, we handed the information back to him in perfectly ordered squares of cold hard fact. I hated science and only took what I absolutely had to for graduation.
So I've worked to make it matter to my own sons. We periodically look through a telescope, have a microscope we play with (and will use more seriously this year), watch videos (more on that in a minute) and try out small science experiments as we run across them. today we used a flashlight to look through a glass of water to see how light is refracted into color, then we mixed food coloring to confirm how secondary colors are made. Earlier this summer, Sam and I grew seeds inside zip lock bags, trying a variety of mediums to see which one worked the best. He helped me garden this summer as well, learning about pollination, hybrids, soil make up, and "damn bugs". (Hush, that is too a scientific term). There's lots of book work, as there must be, but I try not to let it be their whole world as students.
Last night we watched a Nova documentary on String theory. Even with their father in the background reminding them of how it's just a theory and that it promotes a Godless universe, the boys sucked it in. And then they spit it out in the form of opinions and questions (all embracing the existence of God. They thought it was funny that a scientist could propose that our world is a pale version of some other parallel world, but rejected the existence of an intelligent creator). They've asked for more Nova. Hey, I can do that.
I'm grateful to "Myth Busters" for sparking my sons' curiosity. I can't tell you how many times I've asked them where they learned this word or that, only to find that they heard it from one of their episodes. Hurray for the people who created it. Would that this much thought was put into the creation of more shows like it.
We've discovered an unlikely tool in this science education method. Believe it or not, we promote science fiction as an educational tool. Why? Because words like "fusion", "fission", "particles" "atoms" the names of constellations, "black holes", and biological terms are thrown around freely in good science fiction. We've found that the boys remember the definition of the words better if they were entertained while hearing them. They're more inclined to go off in search of ideas on their own if "Dr Who" used the word. They want to know if time travel is possible and if black holes can really be used and which planets can sustain life and what their atmospheres are made up of.
What I like about art is that it promotes an attitude of experimentation. Last week we studied art periods and tried out Impressionism, Expressionism, using water colors, and (my favorite) Dada. Sam wants to try out acrylics next, but I told him he'd have to wait until payday. Tomorrow we're going to try our hand at making paper for lots of non-scientific reasons, but science will be a big part of it. The next day we're going to study "horizon lines", as taught by Daniel who actually took art classes. On Friday we're going to tie-dye t-shirts--mostly for fun, but since lots of measuring and planning are involved, it too will have a certain amount of science involved.
Next week they'll all more or less be hitting the books again, but now that I'm not working too, we're going to take time out throughout the year to try the "fun stuff" as well. Expect to hear more about it as we pursue new interests. I'm often having as much fun as they are.