5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
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05-03-2014, 11:03 AM
5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
Last night before bed my 10 year is telling me about science class. They are beginning a unit on plate tectonics. I don't have many of the details yet, I plan on talking more with her about it, but from what I can gather the teacher played a DVD on the beginning of the earth (the details are really fuzzy) which led to a discussion that has left my daughter confused. From what I can gather, there was some classroom chatter/questions from students along the lines of 'its just a theory-nobody knows for sure" etc. The teacher (from the few details I'm getting) is just trying to side step the questions related to religion. She isn't going to even HINT at something that might be construed to be 'out of line' She is basically saying to discuss it with your parents- which is a total cop out.

some background: we are in NC, loads of bible bangers here, the school is a private, college prep- non religious, school. But its in a small town, and MOST of the people that attend are regular church goers. In the teachers defense- private schools can be wild with parent donors pulling strings and many times its better not to rock the boat if you like your job. So I get it.

My daughter seemed surprised to learn that there were many Christians (I was thinking of the Catholic church when I said it) that actually believe in evolution and the way the earth shifted around. It seemed to be a different stance than the one she was hearing in class from the other students.

So, here I am, kinda fuzzy on what is actually going down in class, knowing the teacher probably isn't going to address it, and a kid who is pretty much confused because of what her 'friends' say, what her mom says. It seems that the friends were successful in planting a seed of doubt in her.

I need some resources that would be interesting to a 10 year old.


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05-03-2014, 11:06 AM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
I am also planning to email the teacher but not sure how to word that just yet. I need more details from my daughter.


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05-03-2014, 11:34 AM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
I like the Magic School Bus show when I was a kid. Has a cool episode on plate tectonics.

Unfortunately you have a problem in that you live in a small town. I live essentially between two major cities and so the amount of stupid is minimized. It's hard to get that kind of dumb as the cities get larger. But in small towns the concentration of it gets larger.

I really don't have much more of an answer. Expose her to the type of science shows aimed at kids, such as Bill Nye and Magic School Bus which should be ok. They might be a bit young for her but not much. Keep showing her the world as you know it. Keep exposing her to logic and reason and how it works in the world around her. And explain what her classmates believe. A while ago there was a podcast on this, but I can't recall it at the moment.
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05-03-2014, 11:35 AM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
Tough one because you are dealing with 2nd hand information from a child.

I seem to remember that the Dawkins book "Magic of Reality" covers plate tectonics a bit if you want to supplement / clear up your child's understanding. Was the teacher using a text book to bring home that you could look at or was it more of a lecture?

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored- Aldous Huxley
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05-03-2014, 11:47 AM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
I would try to meet with the teacher face to face (if possible) rather than email -- sometimes it's easier to just talk about something than to try glean intent from writing.

Kids sometimes get mixed up on stuff or on fuzzy on important details and many teachers do need to walk that fine line between religion and science...I really sometimes feel bad for the teacher.


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And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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05-03-2014, 12:00 PM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
What is the theory that nobody knows?
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05-03-2014, 12:23 PM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
I don't think it's a cop-out. Would you answer a question that not only risks your job, but could force you to move far away from your home and family to get a new job? I wouldn't.

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05-03-2014, 12:55 PM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
(05-03-2014 12:23 PM)LostandInsecure Wrote:  I don't think it's a cop-out. Would you answer a question that not only risks your job, but could force you to move far away from your home and family to get a new job? I wouldn't.

yes and no.

I understand completely that she doesn't want to rock the boat. I am friends with a few of the other teachers and former teachers, so I understand the 'behind the scenes' politics.

BUT

I also feel like she could have come squelched the chatter, and reinforced ideas they covered earlier in class.....like the definition of a hypothesis, covered the meaning of theory in a scientific sense. That wasn't addressed and that is what concerns me. For all I know the teacher might be feeling like her arm is being twisted by teaching the big bang. Its very possible. I just don't know.


I did send her an email. I explained that I was very fuzzy on the details and gave the story that I heard from my daughter in a non-confrontational manner. I asked questions and for clarification to make sure what I was hearing is correct. I left it wide open for her to say 'no...that's not what happened'....And I also expressed that I understand that she doesn't want to venture down that path because I know parents can flip out and make life miserable. And I also relayed that my child is now in science class with lots of questions and they need to be answered scientifically because it is science class.

so I am treading lightly, but I don't want science to silenced because there is a vocal group of kids that will fill in the gaps that she isn't wanting to touch.


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05-03-2014, 02:08 PM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
Awesome website on all kinds of stuff/simulations: (Including plate tectonics.)
https://phet.colorado.edu/
https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/plate-tectonics
Press "run now!"

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05-03-2014, 09:43 PM
RE: 5th grade- 'its just a theory-nobody knows'
My wife teaches 5th grade. She teaches old earth and plate tectonics, and touches on evolution. It is very, very sensitive as the parents are for the most part highly religious. She has often recommended that kids talk to their parents about topics such as these. Teachers have to walk a fine line. Frankly, parents can be a real PITA.
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