Originally Posted by not_telling
So, ok. I agree that saying "that's just from an airplane" kinda shuts everything down for the first child. But, DH and I were talking about this in the car and he said that the teacher seemed to be suggesting that science can't be beautiful. Which is something we both disagree with. I said, if anything, the teacher's example is a reminder to us as parents that when we give explanations for things, to not say "it's just...", but rather to recognize and take part in the wonder that our child is feeling.
I am a Steiner teacher, and I totally agree with you. This idea -that you have to give an 'imaginative, pictorial' answer to every science question- drove me nuts when I was training. I remember we once dedicated a session to this kind of exercise - trying to come up with answers that left the child 'space to breath in'. Now, I totally agree with this principle. I once read an interview with Richard Dawkins where he claimed he 'had' to correct his six-year-old daughter when she said that flowers were there 'to make the world pretty and to help the bees make honey for us,' and I think that is unnecessary, if not cruel. But I do resent the idea that science, and indeed, the world, is not beautiful enough as it is, and we need to 'dress it up' for the children.
Is not the fact that the air going in and out of a seashell sounds (vaguely) like the sea magical enough? Or the fact that the moon pulls the seas as it moves around the earth? Or the fact that a tree was once a seed? The fact that we're all (the sun, the earth, the moon) moving through space in an intricate, complicated dance? If you need to involve fairies in all this (which, mind you, is extreme) or keep anthropomorphising everything, it seems to me that it means that you cannot, in fact, see the beauty in the world as it is. And, I dare say a lot -but by no means all- of Waldorf people have difficulty with that.
I think more than what you say, it is your attitude that matters. I think the important thing is to give your child the message that the world is wonderful and that you, too, are filled with awe when you ponder these things. You can get this across while using long words and detailed scientific descriptions just as well as you can fail to get it across while talking about fairies and gnomes. [My brilliant anthroposophy teacher says never to talk about something that for you is only a possibility as if it were a reality. Steiner was certain gnomes existed, but are you? Am I?]
What is, I think, important, is to stay with the child's perception of things. The fact that the earth revolves around the sun which is, in fact, a giant ball of gas is fascinating, but sometimes it does take away from the young child's experience of the sun rising and setting, in that it disconnects them from what they are observing by making it 'not real'. I have had to explain to the children in my class that yes, I actually do know the earth revolves around the sun, but from where were are sitting, it looks like the sun rises and sets, and they are both equally correct statements.
It doesn't have to, though; a lot of my children are fascinated by science (I have a Class 1/2), or rather should I say 'science' -- because really all they're doing is playing at being scientists. ("When I grow up I will be a chemist." "And what does a chemist do?" "They make things explode!") In fact there are times when the long words and the explanations help them connect to what they are observing and take hold of it. My general rule is 'if the general mood is that of observation, it is good.'
The other day at lunchtime they started talking about steam, and when it arises. If you are in a hot bath and you get out, and it's cold, steam comes off you -- so they concluded it must have something to do with hot and cold meeting. So I asked them what happens when you mix hot and cold water ("you get warm water of course"). Also, what happens to your breath on a cold day. And I left it at that. I could have jumped in and explained it all to them, but it would have short-cut the process of working it out for themselves. I think I would have done the same if they'd asked me, too. I am fascinated by their emerging ability to look at different situations and try to work out what they have in common, and trying to come up with a unifying theory. I think that is the basis of real scientific thinking.