Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shock, Curiosity, and Empathy

My office mate told a story today about a friend who is a teacher. This teacher shared with him a story about the children in her class who thought that the wind was created by trees shaking their branches and limbs.

Here are a series of three questions I think are worth thinking through:

Shock: What's shocking to you about this idea? Why is it shocking? (i.e., how is this different from what you know?)

Curiosity: What's intriguing about the fact that children have this idea? What questions do you have about it?

Empathy: Why does the idea make sense? What are all the experiences or though-processes you can come up that make this idea wonderful for someone to have?


  1. Shock: I'm not
    Curiosity: What their reasoning is
    Empathy: Its a reasonable explanation. The two occur together without fail and waving your hands (or a foliage full branch) through the air creates a breeze. Ergo, when the trees shimmy the wind is created :)

  2. OK here's me:

    Shock: It's like opposite of how I think about it. I think the wind causes trees to shake, not the other way around. I can't imagine how trees would move themselves. Also, I think of the wind as arising from pressure differences...but then I suppose I have to answer why there are pressure differences. Then I'm in the rabbit hole a bit.

    Curiosity: I have a friend who jokingly says that, "Wind is the earth's way of cooling itself off. It's trying to even out temperature differences." While the person says this jokingly, there are the seeds of everyday ideas that make sense. I wonder if children think this, too, and even if they don't think it, would it make sense to them? Also how do children think trees shake themselves? Do they think of branches like our limbs and legs? If so, it's cool that they think trees are alive, well, cause they are. I'm curious about how much these children think trees are like humans.

    Empathy: Wind and trees shaking co-occur at the same time, so it makes sense to think that shaking causes wind. How could you possibly know which one causes which. I mean all of our everyday experiences with moving air are caused by something tangible moving the wind: We fan ourselves off by shaking our hands by our face. We plug in a fan which moves blades around to create wind. I also wonder if the idea of wind being earth's way of cooling itself off isn't that different than thinking that wind is related to pressure differences (equalizing).

    I'm trying to imagine what experiences I have with wind arising from pressure. I'm thinking about how sometimes I open a door, and you get a sudden draft. Or when I open my nalgene bottle after it's been on a plane. What experiences do children have, that they might be able to draw on.