"Teacher, just how can we learn science without books or
It was the beginning of the school year and after the
first class meeting, Jeff stood at my desk with a
"Certainly Jeff there are science books, they must be
How did he know? There were no science books in the
book storage area. No anything science.
"But Sister Theresa, how can I teach science without
textbook, charts, workbooks?"
"Do your best is all I can say, our parish has no
"What if I could find the funds?"
"God be with you. You find the funds then we can talk
more about a textbook, and let me remind you it must be
one that is on the approved Catholic list."
Here I am, a lay teacher, expected to instruct eight
grade students science without resources. So thereíll
have to be some way to find the money.
This modest Catholic school was located in the
poorest part of the city. The parents mostly farm
workers, paying $8.00 a month for their children to
learn more than they could in the public schools.
Discipline supreme, expectations high, children
uniformed, Spanish speaking at home, all doing the hard
work of learning. No cafeteria, lunch brought in all
sorts of containers, inspected by the sisters as
completely eaten before they left the outside lunch area
"Jeff, you were right, there are no science books or
anything else about science for eighth grade. If we had
the money Sister says we can buy some. No money, no
books, any ideas?
"Iíve got plenty of ideas.
And Jeff did have that great entrepreneurial spirit.
"What is it that you are proposing?"
"What about selling candy at lunch time? We could buy
it at the Smart & Final wholesale store, sell it just a
little bit over retail, put our money in the bank for
"Yeh, The Bank down Colonia Road. Weíll go there and
open an account together."
"OH, would your mother think this is OK?
"Iíll ask her but I know my Mother itíll be OK.
"And just where have you planned for this sale to go
"Oh, thatís so simple; we set up our business at your
window during lunch time. You wonít mind having your
lunch in the room will you?"
What could I say? I wanted the science materials.
"Iíll get my mom to give me an advance on my
allowance, I get the kids to donate change for our
start-up money and you wonít mind driving me to the
store. Iíll do the shopping. I know what the kids really
like and Iíll even ask them what they want just to make
We went to the store, stocked up on the specific
items that Jeff had on his shopping list. The next day a
noon the store had its grand opening. Business was
brisk. Sold out. Jeff had his change tray, coin wrappers
and deposit slip.
We had gone to the bank on the way to the store,
opened an account, "Guadalupe School Fund for Science
To the store again with enough funds to double their
purchase, double their sales with enough to add to the
original deposit that opened the account with $5.00.
The Sisters must have known of the activities but did
nothing to interfere. Sister JB even sent in her candy
order with one of her students. Father Madera could see
the store from the rectory window across the yard but
that was all for then, just seeing. He was the most
beloved priest at the church and in the entire
The money added up quickly, all in nickels, dimes and
quarters. Jeff would get the deposit ready, slip out to
his bike, pedal at top speed to the bank, get back to
the classroom and never be seen coming or going by
I was researching the list of science books on the
Catholic school approved list. Sample copies were sent,
scanned, presented to Sister Theresa. The one that was
selected after a long discussion that included a
committee of students was the one that included a unit
on the reproductive system. Sister was in fact,
distressed by our selection but I pointed out that after
all it was on the approved list. An order was placed,
the deposit money withdrawn from the account. The books
came the kids were delighted. The books were taken home
and lovingly, carefully covered to preserve them. Now
the teaching of science could begin in earnest.
The store began to prosper even more. Charts were
ordered, workbooks came next. Payment made. All in just
two months. The store remained open for business with
the funds going to other school needs. Jeff was the
He trained another salesperson to relieve him. It was
the football season and he was the school star. Lunch
time could be his own. He remained the banker until his
graduation in June.
We studied the various systems of the human body
which especially intrigued the students. When the unit
on the circulatory system was taught, one of the fathers
who was a butcher brought in a cowís heart for
dissection. The kids, after their initial gasps and
groans were fascinated and got to really see, touch, be
a part of the lessons. Do you know how big a cowís heart
is? Really big! What to do with the organ after the unit
was over? It couldnít occupy the refrigerator at the
rectory forever. How to dispose of it?
Father Madera to the rescue.
I was sitting in my classroom during lunch. The store
was closed. The view from the window gave a panoramic
view of the open field that bordered the church
property. There appeared a gathering of children, all
the children at lunch recess were lining up across the
driveway at the rectory.
No kidding around, all very solemn. Father Madera
appeared in his funeral vestments, a violet dalmatic,
then altar boys, Jeff among them, in their regalia, just
as in church, holding candles, waving the incense
censor, plumes of white smoke drifting up into the still
air. Two boys followed carrying a box between them,
wrapped in gold paper tied with a wide black ribbon. The
entire assembly of children fell behind into a
reverential walk. They marched out into the empty
grounds. Now I could see six boys standing on either
side of a dark mound of earth. Father Madera led the
children to the mound. There he conducted a most solemn
funeral. Science and religion blended seamlessly.