“Tiger” and Science
The theme of Did Tiger Take the Rain? is deforestation. I transformed that into a story for children.
Here I should say a few things about the pedagogy that provides the foundation for writing “Tiger.” The book is built on a strategy that connects asking questions, daring to find answers, and sharing the results with the community. As such, I see the book as contributing to standards set by NGSS, at least as applied to children ages 6 to 8.
“The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are based on the “Framework K–12 Science Education” that was created by the National Research Council. They have three dimensions that are integrated in instruction at all levels. The first is core ideas, which consists of specific content and subject areas. The second is science and engineering practices. Students are expected not just to learn content but to understand the methods of scientists and engineers. The third is cross-cutting concepts: key underlying ideas that are common to a number of topics” (Wikipedia, see http://www.nextgenscience.org/).
As to the first dimension, “Tiger” complies with the standard of providing core ideas, for example, through the various small points of information it provides. The Readers’ Guide and Teachers’ Page at the end highlight some of these points in the text and offer ways for readers to build further. The core implication of deforestation, and its effect on evapotranspiration, is given a central place in the story. The intention is to get kids aged 6 – 8 thinking about what role the forest plays in this and maybe becoming interested in exploring this, and other climate cycle issues, in more detail. “Tiger” also provides information not only on the setting and its animals. It also shares insights into an anthropology that touches on family and village, nature/culture, interpersonal expectations, and the challenge of a cross-cultural format for understanding.
“Tiger” also complies to the second dimension of NGSS, standards of scientific methodology. On the one hand, it incites curiosity. It also arouses interest in a method of inquiry. Right from the start, the kids in the book take a stand that goes against the grain of the village. They are skeptical about the claims that the appearance of Tiger in the village at the same time as it has not rained for a long time is an omen and that Tiger has magically made it stop raining. The kids decide to find Tiger and ask why she took the rain. As if that is not brave enough, crossing the river that divides “culture” (village – the domain of the social) from “nature” (the unknown and uncontrolled) shows great courage – the courage to seek answers in the tiger’s own back yard. This is a major part of the groundwork for engaging in scientific inquiry: to incentivize kids to ask questions and assume responsibility to find a way to obtain answers, even if it means uncertainty.
The scientific method of hypothesis testing that NGSS refers to per se is not shared in “Tiger.” They are instead implied in the statements about how it takes a cloud to rain. Monkey shares this knowledge as part of the strategy to share scientific knowledge with younger kids in a story format:
“No forest, no cloud…No cloud, no rain…No rain, no forest…No forest, no cloud”
The intent is to share some basic facts on the effects of deforestation on transpiration so that young readers are inspired to do two things. One, is to wonder at the implications and ask further questions. For example: How does water go from a plant to form a cloud? Two, is that by doing so, the child connects with the science involved. Who are the scientists? What do they do? How do they do that? “Tiger” provides the framework within which scientific inquiry can take place. Usha and Anjali take what they have learned back to the village to not only share in critical reasoning but in to coordinate actions (planting seeds) that will make the earth a better place.
Finally, “Tiger” conforms to sharing underlying ideas that cross-cut various scientific disciplines. I take this cross-disciplinary epistemology as the common mode of understanding that cuts across disciplines. In “Tiger” first of all, understanding what really happened to the rain cuts across various subject areas, including forestry, ethology, botany, and climatology. But “Tiger” reflects three deeper cross-disciplinary incentives.
First, it raises the need for inquiry. In the case of “Tiger,” you are not happy with the status quo so you set out to find an answer.
Secondly, you discover the basic tenets of cause and effect. You “understand” something. You have created a mental image, an episteme; something is rendered transparent, capable of being shared cognitively with others. Part of the purpose of “Tiger” is to provide a framework for kids to understand that there are “truths” that transcend cultural boundaries. Does a tree in your own forest transpire like the ones in Nepal? Does that cloud over your head bring rain? You can speak totally different languages and still “see” the rationality in something that crosses disciplines. Scientific inquiry has a universal affinity.
Thirdly, knowing the role human action and cognition play in both understanding and causality, you are better able to engage the world. You not only learn something about forestry, zoology and climatology. You discover that you are able to make the world a better place by planting seeds. Most of all, as the kids find out at the end of the book:
“We all live under the same sky…When the sun shines, it shines down on humans and tigers together. When it rains, we share the same rain. We feel the same wind. We breathe the same air…”