Moral Meteors

Hooray for charter schools! Ethan’s first grade class has been learning about force, motion, and gravity recently, which has led to some rather interesting conversations in the car as we drive back and forth — topics such as how airplanes fly, why wheels are round, etc. We had a beautiful full moon the other morning, and the kids were soon asking why the moon was covered in craters while the earth isn’t, and what would happen if a rock was going to crash into the earth. It’s not the first time that particular topic has come up, but perhaps the first time they really understood my explanation, finally resolving some old fears, and allowing both kids to get a good laugh out of a journal entry I’d written when they were 3 and 4.

(July 18th, 2005)
Ethan was concerned last night that a giant falling star was going to come straight at us and crash into the earth. I’m pretty sure he got that from the new Lucky Charms commercial, where Lucky saves the day with his new shooting star marshmallow.* Recognizing that heroic cartoon leprechauns probably don’t exist, but that giant meteors might, he was afraid to go to bed.

So I took the opportunity to talk about shooting stars, how meteors shine like stars because of all the friction our atmosphere creates as the meteors travel toward us. “Just like the friction between paper and an eraser causes an eraser to break into little crumbs over time, usually by the time a meteor goes through our atmosphere, it’s broken into dust or tiny pieces, and if any pieces actually make it to the earth, they are then called Meteorites.”

He sat there thinking, appeased for a moment, then frowned and asked, “Are the big ones that crash into us called Meteor-wrongs?”

*I should clarify this since the commercial is off now. This spot featured a huge rock that was going to crash into the children. Lucky the Leprechaun jumped up and hit it with this new shooting star marshmallow, causing it to break into a fireworks display of thousands of tiny shooting star marshmallows. And those pieces landed into the cereal bowls of children everywhere. I’m sure General Mills didn’t intend to horrify their audience.


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