On poems and pi: a STEM needs roots

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back-to-school time inevitably brings back memories.

Anyone who has ever ascended the steps on a big yellow school bus knows that feeling — the excitement and possibilities of the school year ahead.

When I was a child, preparations for the first day of school included a trip to the store for new jeans and shoes, a new notebook and, of course, a good supply of #2 pencils.

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How things have changed!

Now school children head off to school with smart phones tucked in their book bags.

Smart phones may be a necessity in today’s world, but children should be reminded that such ownership, despite what the name implies, does not guarantee good grades.

The secret to success at report card time and life in general, for that matter, is simple: assimilate the basics of a well-rounded education in a grounded, common sense way.

When I started school, we had reading, writing and arithmetic.

Now we have STEM.

If you ask me, today’s educational model has branched out a little too far from the tree. Even young children know basic biology. For a tree or stem to flourish it needs roots.

Concern over a lack of such roots recently led a Farmville couple to publish a Bible study series to “open a conversation at the intersection of science and spirituality.”

“Today’s educational system is based on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math,” Karen Bellenir said in a May Herald feature. “Young people today look at things in a very literal manner. Kids need to be taught how to interact with literature and understand literary devices like metaphor, parable and storytelling.”

The Bellenirs were concerned that “reading and writing” were not getting a fair share in the educational equation, so they wrote their “Walk with the Gospel Writers” series.

To date, it has received good reviews both locally and nationally.

While it’s true that STEM is important in today’s world, it is also important to encourage children to stop and smell the roses in the larger world outside their schoolroom door.

We need to show our children, as the Bellenirs did, how to read, write and think about concepts not based on a formula.

One of my favorite poems, written by Joyce Kilmer in 1913, offers a good example:


I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

Science, I believe, is firmly rooted in literature. It’s up to us to cultivate both.

Marge SWAYNE is lifestyles editor for The Farmville Herald. Her email address is marge.swayne@farmvilleherald.com.