Friday, November 1, 2013

Science, Natural Processes, and Theology: Observations and Reflections: Part II

The dialogues excerpted below come from our project work these past few weeks.  Each one shows how the students are working to understand, in both scientific and theological terms, the complex forces of time and nature.  All of the children’s dialogues have been respectful and constructive, and while the children have been free to offer up their opinions, the teachers have worked diligently to help them use what they know to develop their own questions into testable hypotheses.  What is very telling in all of these excerpts is that their conversations have a seamless quality – there is no jarring juxtaposition of the spiritual with the scientific – they seem to flow naturally – but there is also the underlying sense that the children are trying to make sense of how the two might converge and diverge. 

What the children bring to any project conversation needs to be heard and valued – the ideas they propose are their own, and the questions they generate are of the deepest concern to them.  Encouraging them to respectfully consider of all the possibilities is the role of the educator, the guide on the side who can foster deeper reflection, inquiry, and scientific understanding. 
September/Frog Funeral (blog post): 
Some were hopeful that the frogs would make it to heaven and some did not believe in heaven, but wished them well:

E.K.:  knelt and prayed:  I pray because the frogs died, but I’m happy because they’re still in heaven, safe, where they can’t get smooshed anymore.
N.S.:  I’m sad that they died, but happy that they are in heaven.

L:  It’s good that we’re burying them cause they’ll have a good home in heaven.

M:  I don’t personally believe in heaven, but I hope that they will not be hurt when they’re dead.
T: I hope the frogs don’t go to the underworld. 

9.27.13/ Investigative Research/Water Cycle conversation (excerpt):
W's water test
W:  What is rain?  I did a test where I put a cup outside and water in it.  Then overnight the cup was empty. 
N.B.:  It evaporated.  It means that the water goes up but you can’t see it.

N.S.:  It turns into steam and floats up.  Everything has steam coming out of it.  And the steam will always go up.  Over and over again.  It keeps going until the sun explodes.  If we have something that is warm and there is nothing that turns it into steam, then the whole world would flood.  We need the sun to live and keep the water from flooding.  If we didn’t have the sun though, the water would freeze forever.  So wait, something’s confusing me.  If the sun exploded and the world freezes how will we live.
N.B.:  How was water made?  I think that the water was made by a few liquids blended together. 

What can we plan for and test?
N.S.: Every century a star explodes and the sun is a star.  Maybe it’ll be the last star to explode.  Maybe I’ll ask my mom.  Finding someone who is smarter than everybody.  Ask God.  It was made by God.

N.B.:  Well I don’t believe in God.
N.S.'s questions about water
N.S.:  Well now I have another question about something that’s confusing me.  I said that steam goes up but when you have a lake, I don’t know if all the water goes up or if some of it stays down... 
10.1.13:  Investigative Research/Gravity conversation (excerpt):
N.S.:  Gravity is not oxygen.  Plants are.  I want to know, where does it come from?  I think it came from God.

N.B.:  It evolved over time.  It became more and more and more until it was full on earth.
N.S.:  Well, N.B. says it evolved but that’s my question, did it evolve or did it come from god?  Did God make it?
10.3.13:  Investigative Research/ Water Cycle (picture dictation):

C:  God’s World [above]/ Separate Worlds [below]:  God lives up, up, up and we live below God.  God sends rain into the clouds and then it’s going down.  He makes a ball of water and then sends it down.

10.3.13:  Investigative Research/Plant Life Cycle conversation (excerpt):
M:  Like how did plants evolve?  How did the whole entire plant thing start?

N.B.:  I know that they are a living thing because they have feelings.
W:  We could grow a seed.

N.B.:  Well, I think it’s like this:  The seed is in like a jail, it bursts through the shell and grows.  The plant grows.  We could get a seed and crack it open.
N.S.:  Maybe when I die I’ll ask God.

N.B.[picture dictation]:  A seed blows out from a tree.  It lands on the ground.  Then it makes a bud.  It cracks and makes its first leaves.  It blooms (“I make oxygen!”) the plant says.
N.B. [picture]:  How is a seed made? How do all the parts of a seed stay together?

 N.S.:  Did God make plants or did they not get made by God?

10.10.13:  Investigative Research/ Review of Water Cycle (dialogue excerpt):
W:  I went camping and I brought my iPod.  I looked out [of my tent] and I saw water [on a lake] becoming steam.  The sun is really hot.  Flames (that you can’t see) hit the Earth and cause the steam.  The clouds are living things.  When one of them rains, they are crying.

M: No, they’re just air, smoke, evaporated water. 
N.S.:  I think W. is right because clouds are moving and shapes…like a body.  If the cloud is steam and the cloud rains, how come the cloud doesn’t turn into water completely?

T:  Clouds are a bunch of mist.
R:  I think clouds are dead people.  When they die, they go up into the air and form people.  It takes really, really long.

N.S.:  Clouds can’t be a dead person.  People that die turn into angels, not clouds. 
E.S.:  [Clouds are] water and smoke.  All dead people do is go up to heaven. 

W:  When you die, you go to heaven.  You are just like a spirit.
A.L.:  I have a question.  What is inside a water drop?  I want to look into something that sees way into stuff. 

R: I changed my mind.  I think the soul goes to God.  Something else becomes clouds. 
What is water?

G:  It got made from rocks.
W: No, I cut one and it was quartz.

E.K.:  In the Bible, this guy hit a rock with a staff and there was water.
M:  Water is basically cells made into H2O, what scientists call water.

I:  I think [water] is part of God.
R: I think people digged [sic] down really far and found water.  Then God made steam and lakes.

10.17.13:  Investigative Research:  Plant Life Cycle review (excerpt):
What happens next in the life of a plant?

W:  The life might not continue.  Because worms eat soil and if all the worms eat all the soil in that area the tree will just stop.
C:  Sometimes they get sick and you have to cut them down.

Do they die all of the time or just some of the time?
C:  I think they just get really old and fall down and die.

T:  If all the trees and all the plants in the world died, then we would die because they make oxygen we need to live.
E.K.:  If you chop a tree down did you know they are still living?  In winter, if there’s no green leaves then it’s dying.

A.L.:  First it gets sick then it dies.
J:  It gets old.

E.S.:  It puts out oxygen.
What else can happen to it before it dies?

N.B.:  It makes seeds and then it releases the seeds and then it dies.

Our scientific research has continued to move forward and the children have been encouraged to think more about the scientific method and how to utilize it to help answer our hypotheses.  We will continue to challenge our students to keep an open mind and to consider those questions that are measurable and testable, as well as those questions that are innately human, worthy of a lifetime of thoughtful and philosophical reflection. 

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