As a science teacher it was important to me that my students understood the concept of thinking scientifically. If nothing else, I wanted them to understand that to be scientific one simply needed to make sufficient observations before forming a conclusion. If we all approached life in this manner then we would be well on the way to eradicating bigotry and racism.
Another outcome I wanted to achieve was to have them understand the difference between a fact (observation) and an opinion. To achieve these goals we carried out a number of activities.
Early in the week I would give them an object such as a rubber stopper or a wooden splint and ask them to record as many observations as possible. Later in the week I would give each group a candle and ask that they do the same thing.
On Friday, I would begin the activity by asking that they pay close attention to my actions. I would light a candle and place it on the demonstration bench. During this time I asked them to offer their observations. I then lit a second candle and placed it at one end of the bench. I would then light a third “candle” and hold it in my hand. With all eyes upon me I would then proceed to eat the candle.
Of course, it wasn’t a candle, it was the inner part of a potato I had cored out the night before. The “wick” was a slice of almond nut or a string of coconut, something of high fat content that would burn like a wick. As I moved it toward my mouth, the flame usually extinguished. If not, the moisture on my tongue took care of that. Stunned silence best describes the reaction that usually followed.
I would conclude by asking them what point I was trying to make. The answer, of course, is that we often need to make more than one observation before coming to a conclusion. I then encouraged them not to form an opinion based on single observations such as skin colour, language spoken or a person’s birthplace.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all approached life this way?
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