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  • Steven Delpome

Family and Time Travel


The thing about the Self-Organized Learning Environment is that children get the opportunity to work together with minimal adult interference to learn.

Another thing about the Self-Organized Learning Environment is that because it’s self-organizing, the granny doesn’t direct it and the participants organize and direct themselves. Because of that, there is always surprise and amazement.

On October 1st the Belleville Public Library was good enough to take a chance on a new idea and host a SOLE. What happened was indeed surprising and amazing.

Three families, parents and children, all experiencing a SOLE for the first time, gathered together in the teen room of the library and we talked about what was about to happen and decided as a group on a big question:

Is time travel possible?

What I expected: the children to, awkwardly at first, begin to move toward the computers that were available, and steadily find their way toward an organization that works best for all of them, as I’ve seen happen many times in the past, while the parents stood aside and watched and marveled at what the children discovered.

What instead happened was that everyone there organized themselves into their own familial pairs and groups, and, just for a moment I had a notion to correct them and ask the parents to leave the children be. I am very glad that I did not and instead let what happened happen because what we wound up with were curious children sitting with their equally curious parents discussing traits of black holes, whether black holes were in fact wormholes, whether one could even survive time travel if it were possible.

One of the first yes-it's-possible-sources we found

Asking each other new questions about what is in black holes and how gravity works. Discovering theories proposed by physicists and actual studies that had been conducted on space and aging, and sharing with each other as they were working within their own families. “This is like those brothers who went into space. The ones from West Orange.”

A video of Michio Kaku lead to a visual of how gravity affects the planets

We were this ever expanding bubble of theories and connections starting with physics and theories found on the Internet, stretching out as far as UFOs and Marty McFly and Doc Brown (we couldn’t remember his name at the time! ...nor did we wish to be bothered to stray far from the subject at hand to look it up) and circled back to the question of whether time travel was indeed possible.

It seems astronauts in space age more slowly than we on earth do. Who knew?

Is time travel possible? None of us left the library with a definitive answer, though all of us left with a few theories, but really, the answers and theories didn’t matter nearly as much as the experience we had, families searching together, learning together, making a small mess and big memories, and still talking about time travel walking out the door. And me just all surprise and amazement and gratefulness for getting to work with such wonderful people.

Thanks Michelle and everyone at the belleville library for making it possible for this to happen.

And of course, Nicholas' drawing of the climactic clock tower time travel scene from Back to the Future (see Doc's big crazy hair up at the top of the tower?)