Adventures in Ethics and Science

At 6.5 and 8.5 years of age, the Free-Ride offspring sometimes seem more comfortable expressing their understanding of various ideas with drawings rather than just with words. I sometimes wonder where they pick up their visual vocabulary. For example, the younger Free-Ride offspring provides a picture to accompany the discussion of mutants posted two weeks ago:

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Here’s a closer look at the drawing of the genes:

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Those are pretty unmistakably double helices! How do first graders know this stuff? It can’t be simply from playing on stretches of DNA can it?

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It’s also a pretty good rendering of a mouse.

Of course, we know visual representations can mislead. The younger Free-Ride offspring recently asked, “What are atoms anyway? Are they like little balls with strings around them?” (I took this to be a reference to the standard 1950s pop culture drawings representing atoms.)

They’re not, really. But how do you convey a good feel for the microstructure of the world to grade schoolers? I have a feeling they need a lot of time just to play with the idea before they can squeeze anything like explanatory power out of it.

Nonetheless, the elder Free-Ride offspring seems to be working out ways to understand the stuff of everyday life in terms of elemental “ingredients”:

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The drawing was actually done on thin paper, such that if you hold it up to the light, you see something like this:

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Of course, if you thought that reality was nothing but atoms of various elements, arranged in different ways, you’d have something like this:

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Elder offspring’s thinking about elements seems to have been influenced by a kids’ book about the elements. If I can find it in the sprogs’ den of unsorted books, I’ll try to put up a review.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    February 29, 2008

    Darn! I wish my kids were young again – then your kids could get their work peer reviewed! (And they would then be 100% more qualified than your basic ID Creationist too.)

    Maybe others could voluteer their own sprogs for the task?

  2. #2 Miss Cellania
    February 29, 2008

    You may focus on your children’s understanding of scientific concepts, which you should be proud of BUT…

    What I see in the first drawing is the development of a wonderful sense of humor.

  3. #3 IanR
    February 29, 2008

    I agree with Cellania – the other pictures get a “wow” reaction, but the first picture – that’s got real wit.

    But you do realise by not blogging about science you are destroying the internet, right?

  4. #4 Michael Clarkson
    February 29, 2008

    It looks like those double helices even have some associated histones.

  5. #5 ScienceWoman
    February 29, 2008

    I really like both drawings, but the second one is really amazing. Getting everything lined up on both sides of the paper took some real effort (even if it was thin paper). What skill!

    That and the bonus sprogs link really made my afternoon. Sprogs, lolcats, and poop. How did I miss that one the first time?

  6. #6 David Ng
    March 1, 2008

    These are wonderful. Anyone know the cartoon editor for the New Yorker?

  7. #7 Alan Kellogg
    March 1, 2008

    Sprogs,

    Questino. How do you tell a boy chromosome from a girl chromosome?

    Answer: Pull down their genes.

    (Eight and a half eh? Soon she’ll be at that magic age when girls go crazy and moms are driven insane. :) )

  8. #8 DNLee
    March 9, 2008

    that is so cute and adorable.

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