Submitted by Satinder P S Puri on Tue, 07/20/2021 - 00:12.





On Sunday, July 18, 2021 – I was out -- as I am most evenings when it is not raining – to play solo tennis.
It was a pleasant 75 deg. F day – mostly sunny -- and no threatening rain clouds in sight.
Kids were out – either on their own – or with parents --enjoying a Sunday evening in the park.
Out of the eight tennis courts in the park – only three were taken. Kids were in the playgrounds and also in the basketball courts (most popular sport in the park).
I was playing in the northwestern tennis court along West 133rd Street.
I play solo tennis with nine balls – one for each of the nine planets.
And I was busy hitting – ball after ball over the net – in the hope that the balls would end up in a trajectory around our planet (unfortunately our planet’s gravity would bring them down right away) – and enjoying myself.
The courts were surrounded by lush green trees – sycamores, maples, oaks, Cleveland Pears (no fruit, only spring blossoms), and others.
A young family came in to the court – parents and three children. Nothing unusual -- I have had other families come in and observe up-close what I was doing.
The eldest boy wanted to help pick up the balls – I requested that he not do so --sometimes young children can get hit by fast balls -- traveling over 60 miles per hour.
Alternatively I decided to give the young scholars a short lesson in first grade science.
(I am a retired Structural Engineer and a volunteer teacher at preK-8 CMSD Riverside School. I have taught a variety of subjects -- science, math, advanced math (algebra, calculus, trigonometry, etc.) and engineering. Currently I am teaching first grade science. For a few years, the Teaching Young Scientists in Cleveland’s Parks was a very popular program -- demonstrated in four parks -- and also shown on local television. The coming year will be my 16th year teaching.)
In my teaching I use the Aristotelian method – where questions are posed to the young scholars -- young scientists in the case of first grade science – and they are slowly lead to provide the answers.
There were three young scientists – a boy in 3rd grade, a younger boy in 1st grade, and a younger girl – probably in pre-K.
I showed them a tennis ball. Asked them what is it?
The two boys promptly replied – a tennis ball.
Now can you tell me what shape is it?
The older boy replied – a circle.
The younger one repeated – a circle.
I repeated the question. Again –same response -- a circle.
While a tennis ball – a 3-dimensional object -- does look like a circle in 2-dimensions – it appeared the young scientists -- were not aware of the correct name.
After I told them -- it was called a sphere – and you could get a sphere by spinning a circle -- I asked them what objects around them reminded them of spheres.
They started looking around.
Right above was the moon (it was around 7:00 p.m. in the evening) -- about 5/8 full – (full moon is this week – on July 24) -- they looked at it – and said – the moon.
I asked what else -- they pointed at the sun -- hiding in the west behind the sycamore trees.
So now they had learned that a tennis ball, the moon, and our sun – were all spheres.
Next I asked – what would happen – if I let go of the tennis ball – would it go up or go down?
This question required a few attempts – before they understood that the ball would go down because of our planet’s gravity – which pulls everything down.
Next I asked – what is the first thing the ball would do when it hits the ground.
Both young scientists said that it would bounce.
I threw the ball down – and repeated my question – and they repeated their answer – saying – it would bounce.
Now I asked them to keep their big ears open – as I again dropped the ball.
After a few attempts – they were able to tell me that the ball would first make a noise as it hit the ground and then it would bounce a few times before stopping.
So our young scientists got a lesson in first grade science.
I gave them a tennis ball to play with – the kids thanked me – and as their parents looked on admiringly – I asked them – where they were from – they said South Sudan.
I wished them a pleasant evening – the family went on their way – and I went back to hitting my tennis balls – ball after ball!
What an evening! Met a family from South Sudan. In Jefferson Park – an excellent meeting place – I have met families from Afghanistan, Nepal, Syria, and a few other countries from Africa.
My late wife was from Derry (Northern Ireland) – I am from the Punjab (Chandigarh) in India – not far from where Alexander the Great – the Greek conqueror got defeated in battle and went back.
I forgot to mention that Aristotle was a Greek philosopher – who lived from 388 to 322 BC (Before Christ).
We live in an interconnected world!
Enjoy the summer!
Note: The lead photograph shows a map of Africa where South Sudan (a land locked country) is located, the countries surrounding South Sudan, and a clip of the tennis courts to put the meeting with the family from South Sudan in the tennis courts on Sunday, July 17, 2021, in context. I did not photograph the family.
The second photograph shows a science class in session in Jefferson Park (by the children’s playground) under the Teaching Young Scientists in Cleveland’s Parks program held on July 10, 2016 – an 80 deg. F hot day -- over five years ago. This is to illustrate how the children from South Sudan got their science lesson.


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