The class begins with a variation on the Atom game. This time, students are asked to clump together in the center of the room (or playing area, if outside). The game starts with the teacher shouting, “Bang!” at which point students pretend that they are exploding out from the center. Music is sung or played with intermittent stops as in the first game. The first stop, or “Freeze,” is called and “Atom One” is shouted. Subsequent stops and numbers are called depending on the number of students in the class. If there are fifteen students, then the groupings to follow will be “Atom Three,” “Atom Five,” “Atom Fifteen.” For a class of twelve students, the groupings will be “Atom Two,” “Atom Three,” Atom Four,” Atom Six” and “Atom Twelve.” As the game continues, the groups become larger and larger until we are left with one group again. At this point, the game is repeated one or two more times, starting off with “Bang!” (Note: for classes where the total number of students offers low divisibility, such as a group of fourteen students, or where the number of students in a class is a prime number, e.g., 11, 13, 17, 19, have one student, or two, remain stationary in the center of the initial grouping.)
After the game, we will gather in our circle for discussion. Students will be asked to define the words “matter,” “energy,” “space” and “time” in context with the game they have just played, i.e., their bodies are
, which they move with
, from one place to another through
, and this action of a particle being energized to move through space from one position to another is what creates
. I will then discuss their writing from the first class regarding their views on where the world came from, which will lead into a brief explanation of the Big Bang theory and how the universe was formed. In this overview, I will address that time began about 15 to 20 billion years ago, with all the matter and energy of the universe packed into a point about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. BANG!!! Everything exploded outward in all directions from this extremely hot and dense center (similar to what the students had demonstrated in the Atom game). As energy, or background radiation, moved away from this central point, it became evenly spread throughout the universe. Particles of matter attracted other particles of matter and began to form clumps. This attraction, or gravitational force, pulled the clumps of matter into huge clusters, which in turn formed galaxies. And thus, we have a recipe for making a universe.
Presently, and since its inception, the universe is expanding and will probably continue to expand for billions of years. But most scientists believe that it will reach a point at which time the process will reverse itself, pulling all the matter and energy of the universe back to center (again, similar to what students demonstrated in the game), whereupon it may explode again. In this kind of “closed universe,” a big bang may occur every 80 to 100 billion years. On the other hand, if the universe is “open” (which is not the popular view), it will continue expanding until its stars lose all their energy and die; until nothing remains.
Referring back to the students’ views on where the world came from, we will engage in an oral reading of the creation myths of “Gaea, Mother Earth,” “The Titans,” and “Zeus and His Family” from the
Book of Greek Myths
by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire (pages 10-17). A discussion will follow to explore how ancient Greeks created the myth, not only for entertainment, but also as a way to explain the forces of nature; and how the word “myth” comes from the Greek “mythos,” which means story. Borrowing from the words of Edith Hamilton in her book,
Mythology, Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes
(“Introduction To Classical Mythology,” page 13.), written in 1940:
“Through [mythology] . . . we can retrace the path from civilized man who lives so far from nature, to man who lived in close companionship with nature; and the real interest of the myths is that they lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas and flowers and hills, unlike anything we ourselves can feel.”
Afterward, students will share other stories, legends and myths that they may be familiar with, which will lead into a “circle story” to create our own creation myth as to how the universe came to be. The circle story is a creative exercise that draws on the imagination and spontaneity of students to create a story. This activity will be tape-recorded. I will start it off with, “In the beginning . . .” and the student to my left will finish the sentence however he or she chooses. Each successive student will subsequently add to the story. The story may be completed in one go-round, or may take several times around the circle before it comes to an end. At this point, I will rewind the tape and play it back. We will listen to our story and critique our work. In this critique, we will discuss how our work is either similar or dissimilar to the Big Bang theory.