My Marvelous Mind Maps / by Louisa Ulrich-Verderber

As you may already know from reading this blog, I often engage in many extracurricular scientific projects. One of the methods I pursue during a project are mind maps. They are a form of organizational tool I have stumbled upon which blends the best of ol‘ school pen and paper, with cutting edge information technology. It is understandable to everyone, and can demonstrate depth of inquiry, proficiency, and perseverance. And best of all, it fits the “Student Directed Learning” concept that is becoming such a buzz-word in educational philosophy.

With this particular project, I am working on a grand set of mind maps that all address different aspects of the universe. In the center of the four I have left a large space in which I will fill with an illustration of the big bang, so that it appears as if the four mind maps are radiating outward from the center.  

The first map is “How Big is Big?” In this mind map I explored the sized of the universe. I researched, distances between planets, measurements of time in the universe, rotation times for the galaxy, and distances to distant stars.  All in all it amounted to a pretty fulfilling afternoon, but this is only a quarter of my grand plan.

The second mind map is “How Old is Old?” In this map I explored the age and time scale of the universe. I researched the life, cycle of stars, how the solar system was forms, how the earth was formed, the process of nuclear fusion within stars and the formation and types of galaxies in the universe. This mind map took longer than “How Big is Big”, but it was equally fun because I got the chance to draw so many pictures (I’m still an artist remember).

These two mind maps are the only ones I’ve finished out of the four. But currently I’m working on “How New is New” which explores the history of life on earth. In the time span of the universe life is a pretty recent innovation as far as we tiny humans know.  

All in all I plan to use “mind mapping” as a natural off-shoot of the way my thought process. For as long as I can remember, when I dive into a subject, my natural inclination is to follow lines of inquiry in all directions. I might start with a simple science query and end up in philosophy, history, AND mathematics. The inspired process seems to have no brakes when I start careening around corners of thought, down dark alleys, and taking unmarked on-ramps. Most of the time, I simply have to stop when I run out of paper! As an aside,.. I tend to be very good at “Simultaneous Processing“ which is a clinical term for solving problems fluidly, regardless of the number or sequence of the parts to be considered. This was discovered quite by accident when I was in the first grade. You may have read on this website that I was born weighing only one pound and spent 4 months hanging on to life in the NICU. When I was six, my doctor was worried about my having learning deficits, so he recommended that my parents have my IQ tested in order get appropriate early tutoring. As it turned out, the tests discovered that I was fine and to everyone‘s amazement, they discovered that I had some unusual gifts (a IQ score of 144) in the area of Simultaneous Processing and other unusually high scores on the Kaufman Assessment. I am definitely NOT any better at “processing” the complexities of being a teenager like keeping my room picked up, and remembering to help with the dishes, but I do know that there’s something there that makes me love the process of learning, especially when it gets complicated.