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  • Steven Delpome

What We Do Not See

“Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world.”

--Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

So often the things we don’t see or can’t see or even won’t see are the most powerful. Most of us, when we think of learning, want it to be highly visible. Obvious to us. You are assigned a test on the War of 1812 and we can see correct and incorrect answers. You are assigned to design a model of a plant cell and it can be compared to a correctly built model of the same and see which parts you knew and which you did not.

But learning has roots that run far deeper.

In August, some campers with the Paterson Recreation department were good enough to try out a SOLE, and I intended to write about them for a while, but each time I tried, the words felt so...not enough. I was looking back at photos and writing and each time I did, the words didn’t express the wonder and awe and excitement that was tangible in the ether of the children’s library for that hour. Because, you see, wonder, awe and excitement are the intangible unseen.

Start here:

The children decided to investigate the question, “Who lives on other planets?” Read what is on this poster and try to see if you can inside the minds of the children who wrote it. How epically big this idea is.

Look then on what Farah, Jada, and Diamond presented.

Their discovery of the potential for alien life on the moons of Jupiter is wonderful! But look closer for what we cannot see. Look how curiosity is alive on the page. How one question lead them to other questions and other curiosities and guesses about what is out there (see if you can imagine a Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson looking up at the stars and wondering the same things). These are the minds of scientists in this picture!

Look here to Zenobia’s poster.

How she too was lead to more and more questions (on the left it is hard to see she has written “Where to aliens live?” “How do aliens look?” “Where do aliens go?”). What’s unseen here is Zenobia’s desire to know all there is to know about aliens right down to their guts and veins! If teaching is not the filling of a bucket, but instead the lighting of a fire, well… a fire was lit here.

Finally look to Zyon’s picture.

We can see his artwork and smile. What’s unseen here, what you may see if you look closely is the courage to take a chance. Zyon supposes “People see aliens mostly in the desert because there’s nowhere to hide.” Makes perfectly logical sense to me. Is he right? Does it matter? This is a child ready to take a chance on an idea all of his own, and anyone who has ever done anything great, started by taking a chance.

All of this that we don’t, or even won't, often see, the curiosity, the wondering, the risk-taking, the want for big ideas, are at the very roots of learning. These children found it in a SOLE and I thank them for taking the chance on trying something new and I hope to see them again soon.

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