Clinics around the country are joining StarChildScience to help children "see" what the doctors are telling them about making healthy choices each and every day. As one parent recently exclaimed when she saw our Healthy Choices flyer, "Finally, now I can show my son's pediatrician what he was trying to tell my son about healthy eating. An image is really worth a thousand words!" She suggested to her son's pediatrician that he put the flyer in his office and the Healthy Choices poster in his exam rooms. The pediatrician did this and now tells us our Healthy Choices poster image made a huge difference when he used it with an obese child and the parent. It did make his job a great deal easier. "When we brought the Healthy Choices flyer home from my son's pediatrician's office, we hung it in our kitchen.. It was as if a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. No more arguing about healthy dinners, no more threatening my son with penalties when he got caught eating junk. Now everybody in the family is on the same page."
"Mine look like boots," Chance yelled out as his father's socks flopped over the toes of his tennis shoes.
"My feet are going to be too hot," Nissa complained as she struggled with a sock. "It won't go over my tennis shoe."
"Mine look like white boots." Serene turned to Joshua's friend, Jimmy, anxious to show him that her father's socks covered more than her tennis shoes. They reached all the way up of her legs.
"Oh, this is hard. I can't get these socks over my shoes," Jill complained. "I still don't know why we're wearing socks into the forest."
"Be sure to pull your father's socks alllll...l the way up your legs. We don't want you to loose a sock in the forest." I helped each child pull a pair of their father's socks over tennis shoes, new and old. "We might even be walking through a big berry patch. "
"We're wearing socks because berries don't go through our shoes as easily," Chance told us with the utmost confidence.
"How do we carry our berries, anyway?" Nissa asked. "I love berries and want to take a bunch home with me today.:"
"I have seed pouches for each of you." I gave some of the children large pouches and some small pouches for their seed collection. "Put as many different kinds of seeds into this pouch as you can find. And we will examine them under our microscopes when we return to our lesson area. Let's go into the meadow."
"Yeah," the children answered enthusiastically. Chance reached into his large pouch, measured the inside of it with his arm and announced, "I can put thousands of seeds in here. I'm going to fill it up."
"This meadow looks worn-out to me." Jill said as she followed us down to the meadow, the stiff stems of the summer grasses cracking under our feet like nuts in a fire. The common monkey flowers that she loved to pick just weeks ago had vanished and the only thing that was left were its small brown weather-worn, rough caskets full of many seeds. She looked around and tried to find a flower from the shooting star plant for her collection but that had disappeared as well. And the columbine flowers with all the honey bees and hummers around, they were gone too. When she looked around she found only sneezeweed, Indian paintbrush and lots of dandelions. She walked over to a large ollieberry bush and began picking its berries. "Come over here. I found the ripest berry in the whole meadow."She popped it into her mouth before any of us could see it.
"Look at that." Serene pointed at the small monarch larva feeding on a milkweed leaf. "A big fat caterpillar.""This little larva has so much work to do," I told her as I moved closer to the larva.
"It does?" Jill walked over to us and looked down at the small creature. "What work?"
"It has to make some important changes to become a beautiful butterfly," I answered.
"What changes?" Serene asked.
"It has to make body parts like wings and legs and eyes and other body parts before it changes into a butterfly. It will use the sugars and starches in the leaves of this plant to get the energy that is needed to make those body parts."
"Legs take a lot of energy to make," Jill told me.
"And wings take a lot of energy to make too," Serene added.
"It took a lot of energy to make my legs." Jill looked up at me to make sure I was looking at her legs.
"And it took a lot of energy to make my arms and my legs too." Serene added as she took her shirt off. "I'm boiling hot," she complained.
"Yes. You girls have very strong legs. I can see that," I told them as we continued to walk through the meadow, tasting ollieberries at leisure, harvesting the seeds of grasses, the flowers of sneezeweed and Indian paintbrush, until our seed pouches could hold very little more.
"I can't put these dandelion seeds into my pouch. They fly away too fast," Jimmy complained.
"My berries are as sweet as sugar," Serene told us with delight. "I want to make a ollieberry pie when I get home. I'll bet my mom won't have to add any sugar to the recipe " She ran in front of me to another generous berry bush, grabbed at some berries and carefully put them into her seed pouch. "I'm going to take this pouch home with me."
"As you collect your seeds," I raised my voice so the children behind me could hear, "remember that nature is telling us the same thing that she told us with magnetism and electricity, and with molecules and the elements. Oh, and of course, with light. She is saying, 'Between us two'..."
"'There's nothing between us but energy and information'." Nissa grabbed at these words as quickly as she grabbed at the berries. "Energy and information is what is between us and nature."
"Yes, Nissa. Can you tell me what energy there is here with all these plants?" I walked over to a large berry bush at the edge of the meadow and continued with my line of thought. "And what is the information that is between us and nature right here, this morning, in this meadow?"
"Well," Chance wanted to answer for NIssa. "I think the energy here has something to do with seeds all right.
Maybe it is seed energy or something like that."
Stop here! What have we observed so far? Think about the world these children have just entered and how it relates to what they have learned from previous experiences in StarChild Science.
Here we see children walking through a meadow in a forest along the Pacific Coast of California. On this sunny summer morning it's as if they are walking through the first four chapters of StarChild Science: Teach Your Own. Let's consider this more closely: Upon entering the meadow, the children see that light is everywhere. (Chapter 1 p.8- 12) They can easily see all the plants grow out of the soil and push up into the sunlight, the energy they know can't catch, can't taste and can't put in their pocket and take home with them. They know light is raw energy. It travels, too fast for them to catch, for sure. It bends and reveals colors to their eyes when they look through a prism. The children know light energy travels from the sun right through jars and vases here on Earth. But, when they hold a leaf up to their eye and try to look through it, they readily see light does not travel through the leaf. What happens to the light? they begin asking themselves. It has to go somewhere, for light travels. They recall another energy, magnetic energy, traveling right through leaves and not destroying them, not causing them to shrink and fly away. (Chapter 2 p. 52-54). And when they stop to pull on a stem, the children recall how generous Earth is with her atoms. She gives atoms to plants freely from the rocks in the soil. Some of the atoms can light up like neon signs when heated in a flame. The children recall the atoms of potassium and magnesium burning with violet and white light when put in a flame. To these children these particular atoms are the important ones in the plant world because they are the atoms that make strong roots and strong leaves. When the children pull at a flower, an herb or a young pine sapling they are reminded strong roots cling to the soil. To these children, strength comes from the presence of atoms. (Chapter 3 p. 107-110)
As the children collect specimens, I notice the center of the meadow becoming crowded with their private thoughts. One child says to the other, " I can feed plants the only carbon molecule they eat. And, I can make it myself." Or, "I can make water out of fire and water my garden." Or, "I can feed my garden anytime I want to because I know what plants really need." It seems that the meadow has been carefully tailored to host the children's understanding that plants depend on non-living stuff; life and non-life work together. When they stop talking, they listen carefully, as if hoping to hear the plants breathing in carbon dioxide gas. Some of them even close their eyes as if trying to hear the absorbtion of light in the leaves all around them. ( Chapter 4 p. 111-118).
So you see, on this summer morning the children are not just walking through a meadow, collecting seeds and flowers for investigation. They are really engaging all of the knowledge they have from previous lessons in StarChild Science. And because of this, this one experience in the meadow is very meaningful for each child.
Wearing socks through the meadow is preposterous you say? To a child, pretty much so, yes. A child has no idea why you would do such a 'silly' thing! Many times a child will tell me at the beginning of this experience, "My mom is going to be really mad when I show her these socks. My dad loves these socks so much." Or, I will hear, "Why are we wearing socks for heaven's sake?" Most of the time I hear "My socks will get dirty."
"Well, plants grow you know. And plants need energy to grow." Serene bit into another berry. "That's why my mom feeds me oatmeal and vegetables. I am growing. She says I am growing like a weed. Maybe the energy is growing energy." She popped the ollieberry into her mouth and forgot to chew it before she swallowed it.
We left the warm edges of the meadow and entered the darkened lightcave. "Oh, look. We're going to go through the lightcave. Remember when we tried to catch light in this cave?" When Chance entered the lightcave he couldn't help wondering if there really was a way to catch light. He and his father have tried every kind of container at home but none of them worked so far.
"Yeah, light travels too fast for me to catch it," Joshua told him."I gave up."
After we walked through the lightcave we came upon a deer path that led deeper into the forest. "Come children. Let's go to another berry patch and pick more berries there." The children gathered behind me then followed me down the deer path and into a berry patch which was cloaked in shade. "There's lots of berries here too." We started looking for bright red berries.
"Look at Jimmy. Jimmy's face looks funny." Nissa called out, looked over to Joshua's friend and saw that he had just tasted a berry that was not quite ripe. "The berries in this spot are more sour than those in the meadow aren't they? I wonder how that happened," I asked as the children gathered around Jimmy and watched his face change as if a sudden storm was passing over it.
"I know. I know how it happened. They're just not ready yet. These berries haven't got enough sugar. That's all," Nissa answered.
"Sugar? Not ready yet?" I asked her.
"Plants need ..." Chance began lining up his ideas out loud. "Carbon dioxide and water to make sugar. Remember Nissa? Remember the carbon dioxide bubbles we made last time?" he asked Nissa. "Remember pouring the carbon dioxide gas onto a berry bush?"
"Oh yeah. And the water out of fire," Serene whispered. "That was so much fun. It was like magic to me." She reached for her shirt. "I need my shirt on now. It's cold around here. "
"Very good, children. And what else do you think plants need to make sugar?" I asked.
Chance looked all around then answered, "Light. Plants need light to grow. Everybody knows that."
"Look what I found. A Forget-me-not down under the berry bush." As Jimmy handed me a Forget-me-not flower, Jill came over to us and confessed, "I can't believe plants eat a gas. I still can't believe it. I never heard of such a thing as that before. And I told my mom and she never heard that before either."
"Neither did my mom," Joshua added. "My dad says he has gas when he eats brussel sprouts. He told my mom not to bring them into our house ever again."
"So, that sour berry that Jimmy ate was sour because?" I resumed the questioning.
"It didn't have enough sugar. I told you that already," Nissa was becoming impatient with my questions.
"And it didn't have enough sugar because?" I pressed on.
"Carbon dioxide?" Serene made a shy guess.
"Water?" Joshua yelled out from behind an ollieberry bush.
"Well, let's think about this for a moment. Let's think like a scientist thinks." The children stopped picking berries and began listening closely. " What's the difference between this spot here and a spot in the meadow where we found ripe berries with lots of sugar in them?"
"Well, the air is the same air here as up in the meadow," Chance began. "So the air is not different."
"And both spots are in the same forest," Nissa added.
"So you are saying that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is the same in both spots?"
"Yeah." Nissa looked at Chance and they both nodded affirmatively.
"Now, what about the water?" I continued.
"Both spots are in the same forest. When it rains in the meadow it rains down here too. They are just across the road from each other. So the amount of water is about the same in both spots." Chance came in closer.
Just by listening to a child express what nature is up to gives the lesson a degree of informed analysis, depth instead of shallowness and understanding instead of attitude. We at StarChild Science are commited to pursuing a vigorous presence of children's explanations and observations in science activities. We can't loose sight of this one critical ingredient... the child's input!
"If you were scientists, Chance and Nissa, I gather that you would conclude that the amount of water and the amount of carbon dioxide are about the same in both spots. So, the berries should be the same. Right? One should not be sweeter than the other. But, as scientists, Chance and Nissa, you have observed that the berries are not the same. One is sweeter than the other and that sweeter one is up in the meadow. Not in this spot down here." The children turned and stared at both Nissa and Chance for the longest time. They looked at them in the same way as when Chance discovered the link between electricity and magnetism. When he discovered there was a connection between magnetism and electricity, the rest of the children went home and told their parents that Chance was a real scientist. They too wanted to be scientists and begin thinking like scientists. "Tell us how, not why the meadow berries are ripe while the berries in this spot are sour."
Chance looked around at each of the children, somewhat hesitant to add more to the discussion but at the same time eager to begin thinking this one out. "Well, this is not like the meadow." He looked up at the tall redwoods and continued. "The light is different." He threw out his first clue.
"What do you mean, Chance, the light is different? The sunlight that hits the berries in the meadow is the same sunlight that hits the berries right here." I challenged him.
"I know. But here there isn't as much sun as in the meadow. This spot is in the shade. Look. Look at all the trees. There's no trees in the meadow like here."
"Yeah," Nissa agreed. "It's shady here."
"Very good. I think you are now thinking like a scientist."
"It's hot in the meadow. I had to take my shirt off, remember?" Serene reminded me.
"So, when we are talking about plants it is the sunlight that is the energy that is between us and nature isn't it?"
"There would be no plants without sunlight. "Joshua looked all around him as if realizing this for the first time..
"And my bunny, Cinnamon, would starve." Nissa turned to a berry bush and began looking hard for a ripe red berry.
"Yes. Cinnamon would starve."
"Sophie, my turtle would starve too."
"And my horse would starve. Whisperjacket eats oats and apples and grass." Jill's face couldn't have been more sad.
"Everything would be dead." Serene bowed her head just at the thought.
"Come children let's walk deep into the forest and gather more seeds. " As we walked out of the shaded area I overheard Chance tell Jill, "Don't worry. If there's all this energy around here everything will be ok."
The sun warmed our backs as we found a deer trail to take us into the northern end of the forest. I quickly noticed a change of foliage as we descended. We were walking through narrow flat places full of ollieberry bushes and Bull Thistle when Jill stopped suddenly. She carefully pulled at the soft thistledown of a three foot tall Bull Thistle. "This is the purplest down I ever saw." She closed her eyes and continued stroking the soft down of the flower. The feel of it reminded her of her new baby brother's hair on his fully covered head.
After picking at seeds from yarrow, goldenrod, dandelions, fiddlenecks and shinny shooting star plants the children began noticing their socks. "Hey, my dad's socks are all dirty. Mom won't be happy about this. They are new." Jill began pulling at the seeds that were stuck in her father's socks and putting them in her seed pouch.
"Hey. Mine are all covered with seeds too." Serene squiggled her feet this way and that trying to shake the seeds loose from her father's socks.
"What is going on here anyway?" Chance did not care for this kind of surprise. It was so unexpected. It seemed to him nature had gotten the better of him and he did not think that was at all fun. "You didn't tell us this would happen," he scolded me.
"Now what are we going to do?" Jill asked us all.
"What can we do with those socks?" I asked them.
“Wash them before my mom picks me up.” Jill snapped her neck around, looking for a hose.
“Hide them before my mom picks me up.” Jimmy rushed to a dark place near a pine tree and stuffed his father’s socks into a clump of dry grass.
”I know. I know.” Nissa said through a broad smile. “I know what I’m going to do with my socks. I’m going to .....”
Contra Costa Certified Farmers Markets
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For an excellent paper on community see Dee Hock's paper on community. Dr. Wilken has presented Hock's thoughts in his Community of Minds web site.
Mini Heirlooms, Eggplant, Cantaloupe & More!
Sand City of Monterey Bay celebrate their diversity as they open their community to art, music, dance and great delicious favorites. West End Celebration features local artists, world famous musicians, and commerce. in August of each year. It brings happiness, love and peace into a community while opening lines of communication between artists, merchants and musicians.
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Read how to make fruit and vegetable gardening more fun and productive.
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All about good food, good cooking, good company, and good health.
Roxanne B Sukol MD MS
All Saints' Day School
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