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A Note to Parents Regarding the Beginning and End of Time Diorama Presentations for Ms. Miller's Third Grade Class

By day Rebecca Schwarz is a mild-mannered editorial assistant for a scientific journal, by night she writes science fiction and fantasy stories. Read about her writing life and link to more stories at curiousworlds.blogspot.com.

Dear Parents,
It's diorama time again, and I thought I would send home a few notes for parents about this annual project. While your child is encouraged to approach this project creatively, there are a few ground rules that will help ensure success--as well as the safety of the class.
If your child chooses Eternalism or "brick time" he or she may not use marshmallows, M&Ms, or any other food item to illustrate the discrete blocks of time. Also, while space-time may be infinite, the dioramas are meant to be a representation to demonstrate your child's knowledge of the beginning and end of time. Keep in mind that we have sixteen students in the class and all their dioramas must fit on two tables.
Any dioramas depicting N-dimensional space-time, or "time foam," must not infinitely generate soap bubbles (it creates a terrible mess).
I would recommend restricting any diorama to 6 to 8 dimensions, even if standard string theory's 12 dimensions are achievable, the results are both difficult to view and, in reality, cannot be contained within the confines of the class. Although it has never happened, we would hate to lose a child to another dimension on diorama day.
Your child may not bring nothing and claim that time, the 4th dimension, is "invisible" to us.
Your child may not bring nothing and claim that he or she actually brought two dioramas, one of the moment of the big bang when all matter was infinitesimally small, and the other of the heat death of the universe when things are nearly infinitely spread out.
Neither may your child bring a handful of marbles claiming they represent the moment of the big bang, then throw them up in the air and wait until they all roll to a stop and call that the heat death of the universe. While this demonstration delighted the class, it was just that, a demonstration. I will be grading dioramas only. Also, it took days to find all the marbles and they proved to be both a distraction to the class and a hazard to myself.
Dioramas representing religious views of the beginning and end of time are acceptable--please keep in mind that this is a third-grade project and the imagery should be appropriate. For example, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are fine, as is the Eternal City, but a depiction of the Whore of Babylon is inappropriate for a third grade class (at the very least any such depictions should bear no resemblance to any member of the teaching staff past or present).
Any scenes depicting the last phase of Earth's destruction in Ragnarok cannot involve fireworks or actual fire. (I really shouldn't have to bring this up every year. The school's policies regarding fire and fireworks are clearly stated in the district's Student Handbook.)
A final note:
Last year a student presented a diorama that illustrated my life as an example of the experience of time. I do not know how he found out that I was born via Caesarian section. Both parents and staff felt that the content of his diorama was inappropriate for third graders. While I did award him points for creativity and accuracy, I did not appreciate the other half of the diorama illustrating my death in a fiery car crash on the interstate.
I have sold my car and moved to an apartment closer to the school. If this has changed the outcome of the end of my time on Earth, I do not want to know it.
All projects are due next Monday and will be judged by the third-grade teachers and members of the PTA.
Good luck and happy building.
Ms. Miller
3rd Grade
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Author Comments

This story was a rare bird indeed, one that rolled off my fingertips with very little effort. Most of the credit, really, should go to my school-age daughters and the countless squashed and crumpled school notices and teachers' letters they've brought home in their back packs.

- Rebecca Schwarz
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