Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Miracles: A Multigenerational Program on Living in Awe and Wonder

Activity 2: Serendipity

Part of Miracles

Activity time: 7 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Post blank newsprint.

Description of Activity

Miracles and science are not incompatible. Sometimes the unexplained is simply the unexplored. Many expeditions taken in the name of science have ended some very unexpected results. Explore the concept of serendipity with participants, of being in the right place at the right time, of accidentally stumbling on something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated. Share an example or two from this list:

  • The first European to see the coast of North America was reputedly an Icelander, Bjarni Herjolfsson, who was blown off course by a storm in the year 985 or 986 CE while trying to reach Greenland.
  • The Slinky was invented by US Navy engineer Richard T. James after he accidentally knocked a torsion spring off his worktable and observed its unique motion.
  • Chocolate chip cookies were invented by Ruth Wakefield when she attempted to make chocolate drop cookies. She did not have the required chocolate so she broke up a candy bar and placed the chunks into the cookie mix. These chunks later became the candy we now know as chocolate chips.
  • Pluto's moon, Charon, was discovered by US astronomer James Christy in 1978. He was going to discard what he thought was a defective photographic plate of Pluto, but his Star Scan machine broke down. While it was being repaired, he had time to study the plate again and discovered others in the archives with the same "defect" (a bulge in the planet's image, which was actually a large moon).

Write the word “serendipity” on newsprint. Ask participants for ideas about or definitions of the word. Use it in a sentence, such as: “Just as the funeral ended, the serendipitous appearance of a rainbow soothed the sad family.” Invite them to share examples from their own experiences. Say that you will share a story about another serendipitous discovery.