Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Physics of Camaraderie in Sixth Grade

For the last three weeks my class has been in a Physics block and so far we've covered sound, light/color, and heat. Next week we'll study magnetism and static electricity. The focus of Physics, and all sciences in Waldorf schools, is observation before any conceptual formulation. What do we actually experience as opposed to what we believe we know based on scientific theory and concepts? For the first experiment I prepared a room by covering every window with black paper so that no light could get in and the class could experience complete darkness. What an experience it was! As we sat in darkness and silence the class became very calm. I asked them to close their eyes: nothing changed. I asked them to hold a hand up in front of their face: they saw nothing. The next day they had to write an essay about their observations in the dark: what was the actual experience? Many students wrote that they felt both relaxed and alert at the same time. Once they were used to utter darkness they noted that heart rates and breathing were slower, but that they could also hear classmates breath and were aware of themselves breathing loudly. A few girls told me they held hands as an "anchor" in the dark. We did a few other experiments where we needed a darkened room, but every time we went into the room my class begged me to be able to simply sit in the dark for awhile. One day it was pouring outside and the entire class, in uncharacteristic unity, pleaded with me to let them run around in the rain and then go upstairs and sit in the dark! How could I say no? The period was complete for them when I told a ghost story.
So were these extra escapades in the dark completely frivolous? Or did they serve another purpose aside from Physics? In many sixth grades students may form small groups of friends that could lead to cliques; students may tease and be unkind to each other. I'd argue that their time together in the dark was a bonding experience. They emerged from the dark laughing and talking and I felt a unity, a sense of one whole class that hearkened back to earlier grades. What a gift to them; what a joy for me to see a simple Physics experiment become an unspoken moment of real camaraderie.

1 comment:

Marian said...

Physics in sixth grade? Maybe they were confused. But base on the post made that was a great experience. . . Many teachers will admire, if that would be happen in all elementary schools. Great idea and more knowledge.