It’s not magic, it’s science

It’s been raining since early this morning. The rain is welcome as late August, all of September, and the first week of October have been dry, very dry. I awoke this morning to Ivy wanting to climb into bed with me, rather than lie at my feet as she usually does. This morning she was up by my head, then my chest, leaping off the bed and running downstairs, then racing back up, before I finally relented and got out of bed and began my Saturday morning. Long before the sun rose.

The rain has been heavy with thunder and lightning, which is what spooks Ivy.

I had a few appointments in the morning before I was able to get back to writing and thinking or thinking and writing. It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Last weekend was a three-day weekend and I started writing a post, but didn’t finish, so it’ll be one of those blogpost topics which flickered, but didn’t light. I haven’t forgotten kindness, but just been focused on school and home, and of course the long season.

The long season is winding down. The Astros, my team, have made it to the postseason and they’ve advanced to the American League Championship Series, they need 2 more wins to advance to the World Series. I am watching and rooting, though sometimes it’s easier just to listen or learn the score after the game, but that takes the fun out of the game.

It’s all about balance, because sometimes the forces of life are beyond my control.

a balancing act, science, not magic

Last week my science students were beginning their study of forces, motion, and energy. Our focus in class has been to wonder and be curious about how things move. I’ve introduced my students to the magnetic cannon and Newton’s Cradle and last week I balanced two forks with a toothpick on the edge of glass beaker. It’s easier than you think, it’s all about finding the right balance and then trusting that apparatus (the forks with the toothpick) will balance and realizing that if they fall, I can try it again, and again until it balances.

I wanted them to wonder and be curious how it all works. Of course, I took the balancing act to the next level and lit the toothpick with a match. The video is from my classroom.

The toothpick burns down to the edge of the beaker, then goes out. The forks still balance, though at first, my students didn’t think that it would.

I challenged my students to attempt the fork and toothpick balancing act at home. Over a third of my students took photos of their forks balancing with several taking a match to their toothpicks (with parental supervision, I am certain), as I had.

One of the students remarked that it was a ‘magic trick,’ I reassured him that it wasn’t magic at all, it was science.

What I love most about teaching kids is that my students teach me as much, if not more than I teach them. Sometimes, it’s patience, other times it’s perseverance and persistence; this time it was wonder and curiosity.

Another of my students was certain they would be able to balance the forks at home and clearly exclaimed, “If Mr. Watkins can do it, I can do it.” And she did. Confidence.

Teaching kids is more than balancing, it’s developing trust through relationships. It’s more magic, than science, but really it is science.

it really works….

That Friday afternoon, I gave each of the tables a plastic ruler, a hammer, and string and challenged them to continue the balancing act. And they did. By the end of each class, every table in every class had balanced a hammer at the end of plastic ruler. They believed they could, and they did.

it does, because it’s science, not magic

Because they believed they could do it, the made every moment in class count. Understanding they principles of force, motion, and energy will come because they believe it can be done.

It’s been a great couple of weeks and the week ahead looks pretty amazing, too. The Astros persevered today and won in grand fashion on the last play of the game. They head to New York for a game with the Yankees Monday evening, then another Tuesday afternoon, and another, if needed, on Wednesday afternoon. They need to wins. I have a field trip to Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center on Wednesday with 48 of our 8th graders and I am excited about what we’ll get to experience.

I’ve been making the days count in so many ways this year that I haven’t sat down long enough to write about it. Today has been a great day, it truly has, though it’s hasn’t stopped raining and it won’t until early tomorrow morning. I am thankful that my wife had the basement wall cracks sealed earlier this spring, otherwise…. I might be making my evening count some other way.

It’s really all a balancing act – balancing roles and balancing activities – making the right choices. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the evening, or what’s remaining in the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one balancing act after another, because it’s not magic, it’s science.

How is your balancing act? Is it magic, science, or it something else?

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4 thoughts on “It’s not magic, it’s science

  1. Clay, you’re such an inspiring teacher! Having one of those guides children/students in a good fashion onto their ways of life, maybe wakens interests, opens minds, shows choices! They are blessed, those students.
    Also I noted some time ago that you wished to have access to my ‘private blog’ – I haven’t got one that’s why. I only have a quite terribly neglected account on Flickr (photo site)…. it’s

    1. Thank you – actually it’s my students who inspire me. They give me energy to teach and learn and help them grow. It’s a cycle and I am thankful for all of them in my room and my life. And I am thankful for your readership and leaving a thought to share and make me smile and think. Have a great weekend.

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?