I am currently developing a unit entitled "the Science of Circus". The focus originally was on basic concepts of physics, illustrated by circus concepts such as Tightrope walking, juggling, poi spinning, etc. While developing the unit, I've noticed it moving in a dramatic direction however- based on the unexpected discovery of a story.
This story is the tale of the complex relationships between the three most important scientists of their day: Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, and Thomas Halley. Two of these men were best friends, however two of them were bitter enemies. This story includes friendship and incredible acts of sacrifice, but also lies, stealing, betrayal, magic, and even madness. All three scientific geniuses may have faded into obscurity, their discoveries unnoticed, if it were not for the influences, both positive and negative, of their two compatriots. But which one of them could be named the most important scientist of their day?
THIS is the story I am researching as my 'hook' for my unit. I'll still be using circus concepts to illustrate the experiments, but it is the focus on the historical story that will be the central unifying theme of the unit.
This exciting story and my desire to integrate it into my science lesson plan leads me to some reflective thinking and exploration. What is it that draws me to use this story in my unit? The original concept of 'circus' seems to be exciting enough- I even have a Dr. Seuss book "If I ran the Circus"... to be used at some point in the future I'm sure. What is it about this particular story that has captured my attention, and that makes me, as a teacher, want to include it?
The answer is because it is based on Relationship. The three scientists motivated each other, whether by support or spite, to become better scientists. It is a compelling story, that can be used not only to deepen understanding of the scientific concepts, but can be used to deepen understanding about the role of friendship, about perseverance, about dedication... all the values that I work to instill with my circus program.
I'm unpacking my role as 'teacher'. Just as teaching circus is not about circus, I'm beginning to suspect that teaching science may not be so much about the science. My role as teacher is not to instil facts and skills, it's to foster creative thinking, trust, teamwork, and positive relationships. Everything I teach, whether it be Circus, Science, Math or English- all are simply different tools to instil the confidence and values of emotionally competent human beings.