Growing up, I loved Wonder Woman. Not just a little bit, a lot. It helped having the weekly television show featuring actress Linda Carter with her lasso of truth, invisible jet, and shiny outfit, complete with gold crown. The true reason I liked her was that she was one of the few powerful women on TV who had dark hair, like mine. Everyone else was blond. I could relate to Wonder Woman. Even now, I have a small collection of Wonder Woman items.
Now that I am a Challenge B tutor, Wonder Woman has taken on new meaning for me. In so many ways, I feel as though the Challenge years are teaching our young people what it means to wonder—to explore the deep possibilities of our seminars in Latin, logic, science, current events, writing, and math. With our class, I feel that a significant part of my role is to point out fresh goodness in each seminar and encourage them to wonder deeply, to make connections, to see God in every aspect. Yes, I have become the “wonder” woman for them, with clear emphasis on the wonder.
Recently, our class completed a community Science Fair. I felt fortunate that I had a front row seat with students as they started with a germ of an idea. I treasured seeing the process unfold as they grappled with the scientific method, applied it to their project, and drew their own conclusions. For weeks and months, they wrote, researched, experimented, tested, and re-tested their ideas. With the final culminating fair, they presented their research plan document, designed a presentation board, and then articulated everything to judges. They literally bloomed in knowledge right before my eyes—it was fascinating to watch.
In contrast, I think back to my eighth grade science year and sitting in Mr. Lewis’ science class. I remember our fat textbooks and his sterile models of atoms—sparse round balls and sticks sealed in a protective case and never touched by students. His discussions of atoms featured him drawing a circle on the blackboard and saying, “This is an atom. Now, turn to page 297 in your textbook as we read about them….”
I feel so grateful for the way we experience science in Challenge B. Our students study the history of the legendary greats of science and then share their findings with classmates in discussions. They learn to research and express themselves beautifully. Not only do they share their findings in writing, but during the course of many weeks they have made posters, performed demonstrations, tapped out Morse Code, created shoeboxes filled with items about their favorite scientists, and more.
Now that the Science Fair is complete, we are delving into the deep waters of the debate of creation versus evolution in the book, “Defeating Darwinism.” This book is a challenging read and is definitely geared towards high school and early college years. At first blush, my first thought was “I’m not sure the students will really get this,” but after several weeks of listening to their thoughts and ideas, it is clear to me that they are learning how to grapple with big ideas and they are ready for the opportunity to think big.
My son and I have been reading the book together and have called it “Mom/Son Book Club.” We sit in big chairs and take turns reading the pages. We pause and I ask him to explain to me what he is learning and if he can express it in his own words. I help him understand the difficult terms and he tries to put it all together. Not only is he learning the surface material of the debate on Darwinism, but I see him making connections across the seminars with the Latin words, terms from logic, and the structure of formulating arguments persuasively.
Through my experiences in Classical Conversations, I have fallen deeply in love with the learning experience, especially science. As a result, I now coach a homeschool Science Olympiad team. Through our adventures in science, we have made rockets, built catapults, designed balsa airplanes, created giant messes in the kitchen, toured garbage dumps, designed in architectural form an imaginary community on Mars, and more, all for the exploration of science.
The best thing about tutoring Challenge B is watching my students develop a deeper ability to think. Yet, the weekly practice has changed me, as well. I have always been a curious person who loves interesting things, but in redeeming my own education, I am seeing how much more learning can be. Through all my rich conversations with students, I get to witness the wonder in them. I get to see God’s creation come to life with fresh eyes and minds and to see what a wonder this world truly is.
PS: If you are ready for a fresh take on science or you want to learn more about science from a classical perspective, don’t miss the Classical Conversations Parent Practicum this summer. Practicum is a free, three-day seminar and encouragement in classical education. This summer the Parent Practicum theme will be the love of science. Details will be coming soon—check out www.classicalconversations.com to find a Parent Practicum event in your community.