Just because I am no longer teaching science, does not mean that I am not a giant science nerd at heart. Take for instance the Lunar Eclipse that we had last night. Although I only found out about it in the last couple of days, something that would have never happened when I was teaching science full time, I still made plans to get up before 2:00 am in order to get some pictures of the lovely “blood moon” that we would be able to see, if the skies were clear. Lucky for me and the rest of us in Iowa who were up that early, the skies were perfectly clear and it was a great night to get some pictures. The fact that it was cold also helped in that it lowered the humidity of the air so that the picture could be clearer.
My alarm went off at 1:45 am and I got dressed, grabbed my camera and tripod and went out into the night in search of a great picture. Had I been in the classroom still, I would have made sure my students knew exactly when it would be visible and what they needed to do in order to get their own picture. For those that would not want to head outside, I would have pointed them in the direction of various resources that would be providing real-time video of the eclipse and analysis. We would have shared the pictures the next morning and discussed the various variables that affected our pictures such as camera features and location. There is a lot of physics and earth science involved in any of these discussions but there is also the basic nature of science being involved as we discuss how it is we observe things and how our own observations can affect what we think about how the world works.
This is a great example of a teachable moment and one that reminds us that our lesson plans have to be flexible. We can not have laminated lesson plans that go on no matter what else is happening around them. We have to be able to divert from our path in order to utilize the great learning experiences that may spring up at a moments notice. Being able to see something that does not happen every day, to be able to discuss and build upon our own understanding using that event, to be able to understand more about the world and universe in which we live is way too valuable to be thrown away because our lesson plan does not have room for it. We have to decide what is most important, our students or our lesson plan.