Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Donors Choose Initiative: if helping school children wasn’t incentive enough, I’ll draw you a picture!

My earliest memory of engaging with nature and science took place in my grandparents’ backyard in Roslyn, NY.  It must have been the summer, and I walked up to a tree and found a weird brown thing stuck to it: a cicada exoskeleton.  I still remember the feel of the little shell, the papery abdomen and the way the little hairs clung to my skin.  What is it?  How did it get there?  Where is the insect now?  How many are there?  … ad infinitum in the way of a curious child.

Screw this pink dress! Baby Hannah wants to play with bugs under these rock steps

Many of us interested in nature and science have an early memory like this.  It’s the child’s “sense of wonder” that Rachel Carson describes in her book by that title.  I have returned to this quote over and over again throughout the years and, although it’s long, I encourage you to read it right now:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.  It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.  If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

While adults certainly can appreciate nature, it does feel that childhood is the time to craft the experiences that will lead to an appreciation of nature and science throughout life.

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.  The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.  Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love – then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response.  Once found, it has lasting meaning.  It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.

I was lucky: I grew up in a family that was familiar with the natural world, and in an area full of outdoor space to explore and experience.  Not everyone is so lucky.  But if Rachel Carson is right, as I believe she is, about the importance of having nature/science experiences as a child, we need to do our best to provide support teachers as they try to provide fodder for wonder while their students still have time to ask, “why?”

Here at the Southern Fried Science Network, we’re trying to help teachers instill a sense of wonder for ocean science through the Science Bloggers for Students challenge through the Donors Choose Initiative.  If you even have $5 or $10 lying around, donate it to a classroom of your choice to pay for supplies so teachers can do their jobs and teach awesome lessons about ocean science!  Check out the Gam’s page here.  (We are in competition, technically, so it would be great if you donated through our page.  But really we’re competing FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN so any donations are acceptable.)

If helping kids wasn’t enough, I will provide another incentive: Hannah Waters original drawings of a sea creature of your choice!  Forward your receipt or some proof of donation to hannah.waters [at] gmail [dot] com and I will mail you a “beautiful” original drawing.  Hell, even if you don’t donate through the Gam I’ll do it for ya.  That’s how much I care about the children.

So Donate, Email me proof, I will mail you picture that you could have asked your 10-year old to draw for you.

Edit: If you donated before I posted this, I will grandfather you in and draw for you in thanks!

I am no artist: I just like drawing animals when I’m watching TV.  Here’s some examples of my work that I did on Saturday while watching BSG:

Hope to hear from you!


(cross posted from Sleeping with the Fishes)

Written by Hanner

October 14, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Posted in Education

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MotherGooser, Bertromavich Reibold. Bertromavich Reibold said: Donors Choose Initiative: if helping school children wasn't …: Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of … […]

  2. Hi Hannah,

    A lovely piece. Those words of Carson’s ring so true to me. If you don’t mind, I’d like to include this in my edition of Scientia Pro Publica (Science for the People) to be published on Oct. 25 at Traversing the Razor:




    October 18, 2010 at 8:04 pm

  3. […] and the world around you begins at an early age, and needs encouragement and guidance, as Hannah at Culturing Science argues here. Plus she might draw pictures for you if you make a donation to the […]

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