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  • How is a Hot Dog Like a Shoe?
    Thinking by Analogy

    "Genius is the capacity to see 10 things where the ordinary man sees one"
    Ezra Pound

    Journey North is an invitation for students to become scientists, researchers, collaborators and investigators. All of these roles will require critical thinking. One strategy that will help students better understand abstract concepts is the use of analogy. By making analogies, students can relate things that they don't understand to things that they do!

    The world of science and invention is filled with discoveries made through analogous thinking: Velcro was developed after examining the hooks on a burr and thinking about the way zippers work Myrna Gopnik "discovered" that there is a gene for language when she recognized the similarities between a family tree diagram and a drawing of peas from a genetics class. We can better explain how the world works by using analogies. The following activity can be used throughout the project to enable students to better understand unfamiliar concepts.

    Have the Class practice thinking by analogy. Ask them to think about how two things that seem unrelated might be alike. How is a dishwasher like a tree? In what ways is a hot dog like a shoe?

    At first it might seem as if these have nothing in common, but after some thought students should be able to think of many ways they are alike. For example, the tree and dishwasher both need water; they both clean things. The hot dog and the shoe are both long and thin; they're made from animals; they both go with another object--a shoe with a foot, and a hot dog with a bun.

    Try making analogies between umbrellas, blankets and the monarch sanctuaries, as asked in the February 25th Monarch Challenge Question. The example below will help you carry the idea further.

    Try making analogies for seasons.

    How are the seasons like ________ (A circus? Eating breakfast? A trip? A dance? )

    Ask students to pick something to compare seasons to, and write as many statements as they can about how the two are alike. They might want to begin each statement with "They both" Put the lines together to make a poem or short description.

    • The seasons are like a bike ride.
    • They both take you into new territory.
    • They both follow a path.
    • No matter how many times you go on a bike rode or thorugh a season, you can notice something new.
    • You end up where you started.
    • You an get pretty tired---tired of riding and tired of winter.
    • They both take some work to prepare for.

    During the Journey North program, use the analogy strategy for other concepts that might be difficult for students to understand, such as photoperiod, satellite technology, migration or an isotherm.


    1. Which analogies did you like best?

    2. How does making an analogy help someone who doesn't understand something?