Water And Molecules: The Same Thing?

17 Feb 2015 9:00 AM | Douglas Coler (Administrator)

(This is another entry in our recent series of articles from past issues of INSIGHTS, the IMTAL Newsletter. This one, by Jonathan Ellers, is from Volume 12, No 1, Winter 2001-2002)

A creative dramatics exercise I participated in at the ‘99 IMTAL conference had a large group of us pretend to be water molecules in a saucepan of water sitting on a stove.

The exercise was fun and memorable, so I appropriated it and adapted it for my own use in teacher workshops. Here’s how it begins:

The participants gather close to one another in the middle of a room. I encourage them to imagine they are water molecules sitting in a saucepan of water at room temperature. Invariably, the”molecules”stand there for a moment blinking at me--waiting for an instruction to DO something-- waiting for the temperature to rise so they can begin doing...whatever water molecules do.

At that point I remind them that while water in the pan may look like it’s standing still, it is in fact, slowly circulating. I suggest the molecules then begin circulating slowly through the saucepan, always keeping physical contact (cohesion!) with another molecule.

There’s lots more to the exerciseundefined boiling, evaporating, condensing and freezing--but you get the idea.

I mention this only because it struck me the other day the water-in-the-saucepan activity is not an inappropriate metaphor for what I’d like to see IMTAL not only encourage but benefit from.

We pay our yearly dues to become “molecules in a saucepan.”And, for the very most part we stand there, blinking for a moment, waiting for the periodic firing-up of the stovetop,the receipt of the latest newsletter, the announcement of a conference or workshop etc. so we can DO something. Then, in a structured setting for a prescribed period of time we begin circulating. We find out about one another, share experiences and learn from one another.

Afterward, we return to room temperature and wait for the next time the stovetop heats.

The thing we forget (or at least I do) is this: what is unique and satisfying about being a water molecule is the easy but ceaseless sense of contact and motion one enjoys even when all appears still. That’s why it’s cool to be -of all the molecules on Earth -a water molecule.

That’s what I think it might be nice if we in IMTAL think of ourselves as water molecules in a saucepan. Water molecules maintain just a little motion and a little contact all the time. It hardly takes any individual effort at all. But each little contact makes tiny little currents through the whole saucepan. And those little currents make the saucepan an ever-changing, dynamic place to be. And isn’t that really the point of paying our dues? To be in a saucepan that is ever- changing and dynamic? Who wants to be in a saucepan that’s boring?

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