Last evening when I came home late from work I noticed a star filled sky. One of the benefits to living in the country is the stars are much more visible than in the city lights. Every direction I looked I saw constellations shining brightly. Near the moon was Jupiter just south and west. As I took in the stars I noticed a jet passing between the moon and Jupiter in the sky leaving its contrails visible in the moonlit sky.
Early this morning as I walked the garbage out to the road before sunrise I saw Orion dancing in the early morning western sky. Just as last evening, the skies were clear and star filled. When I grew up in the Twin Cities the stars weren’t as visible unless you got away from the city and all of its lights.
I remember the year my parents gave my brother a telescope for Christmas and the hours we spent looking for stars and spaceships. We saw a whole new world through the telescope that year. When we took the telescope out to my grandparents who lived in the country we saw even more.
While attending college I spent one semester in the planetarium learning astronomy. I couldn’t wait to share what I learned with my fourth grade class when I began teaching. I started a unit on the planets and expanded to the constellations. One activity we did in class was to take a piece of black construction paper and poke holes with our pencils to make the constellations.
We hung the construction paper constellations on the inside of our classroom window. People walking past our classroom in the media center could look in our window and the classroom lights would illuminate the constellations as they peered in. The students loved the activity and made extras that they could take home and put on their bedroom windows. We did the activity on a Friday afternoon, hung them up and left for the weekend.
Monday morning when I arrived in my classroom I went about my usual routine. I made copies for the day, looked over my lessons and watered the plants. Next on my list was to feed the fish in the aquarium. As I walked toward the aquarium I was shocked at the sight. The water was completely black. I could still see fish swimming in the tank but in forty gallons of jet black water.
What happened? How did it turn black and why? I looked up and noticed that a couple of our constellation projects had fallen into our aquarium and the dye had turned the water black. About that time the students started arriving into the classroom and were equally shocked. One student noticed one fish on the floor that had jumped out of the tank and landed on the floor and died. The students said he committed suicide because he couldn’t stand the black water. It was our only fatality.
Next it was time to discuss unintended consequences for our actions and our responsibilities for cleanup.
When life gives you lessons, you teach.