Making Sense of Change:
Summer Institute on Hands-On Science
Throughout the Curriculum

(July 25-August 5, 2005)

Metamorphosis in Literature



...if you know how to read a rock,
then what you'll see is this:
What it was. Where it's been. What fires it's seen.

So what I have to say is this:
if you're looking for a metaphor, and the topic is [learning]...
forget butterflies.
Think rocks.

Andrea Friedman, "Meta/phor"

Looking Back at the "Sediment Core":
"where we've been/what fires we've seen"...

Fitting It All Together

Comments from the forum:

Teresa: The play was fun and brought to light the issues and delights (!) of working together with parents in educating their children. OVerall, it was a useful week. I feel expanded as a person and educator....The prevailing observation for the week for me is how expansive learning lightens the learning process, slays learning and personal boundaries (even those generally unperceived), and opens again my inherent sense of wonder and inquiry.


Judith: This week was a roller coaster ride of events. We learned a variety of new things and ways to use them in the classroom. Some of our behaviors had to be changed. We started the week in the cosmos and ended the week on the earthly plain of K-16 trying to solve the problems that existed since the cosmos began....I am changing my behavior and the way I do things.

Antoinette: Teachers who want to be successful are willing to try multiple formats to motivate and reach their students....The world as I know it is only the world to me...(no one else has my exact perspective.)...I am hoping to make learning ... fun, inquisitive, interacitve, knowledge based, reality focused, and a safe envirnment for my students...

Margaret: The best part of the experience has been the sharing...Question: How do college level teachers view us, especially urban teachers? How do you evaluate our skills? How do our skills compare to teachers from other districts? I expected to see many more districts represented at the Institute. Are we off in a separate category?

What Category DO you Occupy?

From The New York Times Education Life (July 31, 2005):
No Child Left Behind, with its emphasis on standards and hard data, has placed national policy in direct conflict with the prevailing approach of many colleges, where the John Dewey tradition of progressive education holds sway, marked by a deep antipathy toward testing....."There is a disconnect of professors of education just not being capable of equipping future teachers with the practicalities to be successful."

Might you occupy a new category, not defined by existing boundaries?

Consider this week's breaking news:

From The New York Times (July 30, 2005):
Planet or Not, Pluto Now Has Far-Out Rival
Astronomers announced yesterday that they had found a lump of rock and ice that was larger than Pluto and the farthest known object in the solar system....The new object - as yet unnamed, but temporarily known as 2003 UB313 - is now 9 billion miles away from the Sun, or 97 times as far away as Earth and about three times Pluto's current distance from the Sun....What is most surprising is that the orbit of the planet is sharply skewed to most of the rest of the solar system. The orbits of most planets lie close to the same plane as Earth's, known as the ecliptic plane. The orbit of 2003 UB313 is tilted by 44 degrees. "That blows my mind....Getting something up that high is very hard"....The new planet could have been easily discovered much sooner if anyone had looked at that part of the sky. "It's because no one looks that far off the ecliptic....No one expects to have an inclination that high"....a defender of Pluto's planetary status said his initial inclination would be to classify 2003 UB313 as a planet. He wondered whether it had an atmosphere and what sort of geological processes generated its apparently bright surface. "The kinds of questions we would ask about this object would be planetlike questions"....Astronomers will also have to figure out how the body made it to its current skewed orbit. "It makes Pluto seem less weird."

This weekend's news story, like the story of change told in last week's Institute, had to do with

When you build new tools of perception, you discover new universes....It's always been that way, it's always going to be that way. And it also means that there's no definitive answers. (Journey Through the Universe, by Ron Cowen )

(Having Looked Back...)
Looking Out To the Edge of the Universe....

Today we're going to challenge the stability of THAT story,
by putting into play stories that arise not only from observations,
but also from the imagination,
not only from conscious measurement and calculation,
but also from the play of the unconscious.
We'll explore the possibility of creating new categories, new stories, AND new objects to occupy them both --a.k.a. Metamorphosis in Literature...
or the History of Philosophy?
We are juxtaposing the deas of John Locke (1632-1704), the English empirical philosopher who wants each of us to use reason...rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for themwith those of the German idealistic philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who said that it is the representation that makes the object possible rather than the object that makes the representation possible...the human mind [is] an active originator of experience rather than just a passive recipient of perception. Echoes here also of Brain and Behavior, Session 9: Neurons can be spontaneously active and "noisy"
The nervous system can generate output without input, and may be somewhat unpredictable.

To begin, then, with the Oxford English Dictionary On-line, and the "story" behind "hypothesis":

thesis: from Greek "putting, placing"=a proposition, affirmation
(Originally and properly, according to ancient writers,
"The setting down of the foot or lowering of the hand in beating time,
and hence...the stressed syllable of a foot in a verse; a stressed note in music.")

hypo: from Greek "under, beneath, below"= foundation, base (hence, basis of an argument).
1. A subordinate particular thesis involved in a general thesis; a particular case of a general proposition.
2. A proposition put forth or stated (without any reference to its correspondence with fact) as a basis for argument...

Since hypo- is the opposite of hyper- ("over, above, beyond"),
let me propose a neologism to guide our play today:
hyperthesis --> going over/above/beyond our observations:
exploring what we cannot see, but want, or need, or wish for,
adding meaning to what we see,
what Loren Eiseley describes in "The Starthrower" as
"the widening ring of human choice"....

I want to tell you now the tale of the evolution of two different stories,
(a cosmic one this morning, a human one this afternoon),
and offer you (and your students) the opportunity to re-write them a third time.

What's missing?
Who's not represented?
Whose story is not told here?
What aspects of the story are omitted?
What would you like to see added?

Some possibilities:

The Creation of the Universe?

The Heliocentric Cosmology of the Dogon? The mommies?

Britt's story behind her story

Spend the next 1/2 hour designing a lesson plan in which the students write a creation story,
based on...conscious observations? data? unconscious awareness? desire? what else?

Then write your own.

Record in the forum what you have come up with, and we'll read these before lunch.

In the Afternoon: Bringing it Home

From the 2005 Forum on Brain and Behavior:
Nice to have some people who have been here before describe the institute as the Mississippi River, also changing but always still .... "focused", coherent in some way? Thanks for that, is something I enjoy too, a kind of constancy built on change?....In all classrooms, for everyone?

Mark Twain. Life on the Mississippi (1870):

We're going to apply Twain's metaphor to the most famous of his novels,
to see if books, and the reading of books
(observations, and the interpretation of observations?)
might also be like "life on the Mississippi..."

In his 1935 book, The Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway wrote that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

Have you read this book?
What do you remember of your first reading?
Of subsequent ones?
Would you teach it now in your classroom?

Mark Twain. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884):

Another version of the story, one that attends to what is not spoken:

From "Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn" by Ralph Wiley

  • Reading "Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn" By Jim ZwickRalph Wiley's script sticks close to Twain's text but the stage directions provide new insights by telling us what the characters are thinking and feeling. Instead of relying on Huck's interpretation as narrator of the novel, Wiley gives us his interpretation of what Twain meant in each scene.

  • In Praise of "Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn" by Ralph Wiley By Shelley Fisher Fishkin I had long believed that part of Twain's genius in this book is letting the reader see things that Huck doesn't see--making Huck an endearing and engaging but ultimately unreliable narrator. In Wiley's script, the juxtaposition of the visual message the viewer gets, on the one hand, and the comically limited version of that reality that Huck (the narrator) communicates, on the other, captured that dramatic irony...In Wiley's script, Jim shrewdly and consciously dons the minstrel mask as a strategic performance, playing a minstrel role when that is what a white person expects him to do. But it is a role, and that is key: he plays it out of self-interest. Wiley's Jim is smart, sensitive, savvy, self-aware, politically astute, generous, and stunningly altruistic, a compelling and intelligent father, and a slave seeking his freedom in a racist world determined to keep him enslaved. Because he sticks to Twain's text so closely, Wiley maintains that his view of Jim is Twain's, too. The fact that Huck has a more limited view of Jim should not lead us to mistake that view for the author's.

Your second set of writing assignments for today:

Think "hyperthesis," not "hypothesis."

Write a story about a moment of teaching (a science class? a story of shame?). Revise the story.

Record in the forum what you have come up with, and we'll read these together before we leave for the day.

...And they had found the Philosopher's Stone, because they understood that when something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well. (The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream, by Paulo Coelho, 1988)

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