Plot Summary: The book takes the reader on an artistic and visual journey of what was happening in the natural world when the reader was born. The scientific phenomena/processes are introduced within a poetic narrative and are presented as being in personal relationship to the reader’s birth. The author sometimes verges on personifying the scientific events. For example, “... far out at sea clouds swelled with water drops, sailed to shore on a wind, and rained you a welcome across the Earth’s green lands.” At the end of the story, there is an index with 1-2 paragraph scientific descriptions of the phenomena within the story. Note about the genre: This book feels like it borders between fiction and non-fiction: it presents accurate scientific phenomena, yet relates those phenomena to each other and to the reader’s experience in a creative way that verges on personification and thus “feels” like fiction. Since some students may find this genre unfamiliar, it may be worthwhile to read the book twice. Some students may feel very familiar with this genre.
Posted In: Epistemology
Option 1: Read the story only and then have a discussion. If questions come up about science background, you can refer to the index or other info sources. This option is the most open-ended and may lead to a discussion that is more generally philosophical and less scientific in nature.
Option 2: Read the story. Then read 1-2 science phenomena from the index (the teacher can choose them ahead of time, possibly in accordance with what students are learning in science, or the students can vote). Then have a discussion. This option is more narrow and may lead to a philosophical discussion around specific scientific phenomena, their relation to humans, what makes something alive, objectivity/subjectivity, and relational ways of knowing.
Option 3: Read the story and the entire index. Then have a discussion. This option is a less scaffolded version of option 2 and may be suited for an upper elementary classroom. It may lead to a broader discussion about several different scientific phenomena and their relation to humans, what makes something alive, objectivity/subjectivity, and relational ways of knowing science.
Discussion questions are roughly organized below to demonstrate potential intersections between scientific and philosophical questions. Of course, all the questions are deeply related and the questions and direction of the discussion are not limited to these categories.
Does it matter to gravity that I was born? Does my existence affect gravity? Why does gravity want to keep me from floating away?
Did gravity’s pull really make me a promise? Does gravity know I am here?
How do we know if gravity intends to keep me from floating away?
Why are so many people happy that I am here? Why do the animals, wind, or Sun care that I am here?
What is the difference between how the people welcomed me and how the wind, rain, or Sun welcomed me? How are they the same?
How did the people know I was coming? What is the difference between how the people welcomed me and how animals welcomed me? How are they the same?
Trees making oxygen
Did the trees make oxygen just for me, or for everyone? Is oxygen made just for people, or for other animals, too?
Do the trees intend to make oxygen for us?
Would the trees keep making oxygen even if people and animals didn’t breathe it in?
Is the sky mine? Is it ours? Who does the sky belong to? What does it mean for something to be mine?
Does the sky choose to be mine? Does it have to be alive to choose?
Is rain always welcoming someone?
Did the rain mean to welcome me?
What is welcoming about rain?
Was I welcomed one by one, or did it all happen at the same time? How long was the world preparing for my birth?
Contributed by Christina Zaccagnino