|Picknick: the Powers of Ten opening scene (2010)|
This is the opening scene of the legendary Powers of Ten educational movie that was produced in 1977 and published in 2010 on youtube. Since its publication on youtube it received more than 7 million views! In the description of the video on youtube there is no mention of Kees Boeke who invented the idea of using steps of 10x as an educational device. An unfriendly omission. However, his name is present in the last second in the Credits section of the movie: "With much gratitude to Kees Boeke". Okay, but this is rather vague. Exactly, what did he contribute? It is not clear that the film was based on his book Cosmic View (1957). Boeke deserves more than this. Hence this blog.
Kees Boeke was a Dutch teacher and education reformer. His idea was a method to teach schoolchildren relative sizes. In 1927 he made his first attempts to use steps of 10x. Much later he also tried steps in powers of two, but quickly returned to the powers of ten. He called them 'jumps of ten' because he started jumping upwards.
|First page of Kees Boeke (1959,2021)|
'Wij in het heelal, een heelal in ons'.
Boeke started with a picture of a girl  taken on a sunny day at the schoolyard. She has a frustrated cat on her bosom. The rest of the book contains drawings, some color, some black and white. From the first picture he starts zooming out by jumps of 10x. Higher and higher above the ground. Village (Bilthoven), region, country (The Netherlands), Europe, Earth, Solar system, etc. And then back to the micro world. For a historical context: the book appeared 12 years before Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon (1969).
A year later another video appeared on youtube: Powers of Ten - Ultimate Zoom (micro-macro - Imax combined) 815,989 views 12 Feb 2011:
|Powers of Ten video (2011)|
The video starts with a display of the cover of Cosmic View. The universe in 40 jumps and two previous videos. That is the good news. The bad news is that only the upper half of the cover is shown. So, the name of the author Kees Boeke is not visible! What a pity! His name is also absent in the description of the video and in the Credits at the end of the video. I find the music irritating and superfluous. It would have been better to have a voice-over or at least display the steps of the power of ten in the bottom left corner.
The educational value of The powers of Ten in general is far more than teaching schoolchildren relative sizes. I think the true value lies in placing all the natural sciences on the same scale of sizes: biology, chemistry, physics, geography, earth-sciences, cosmology. Because humans are in the middle of the micro- and the macro world, it helps to see the places of all sciences on the scale of powers of ten. It would be a suitable introductory film for a Big History course because Big History is trying to integrate all sciences including social sciences.
Recently his original book in Dutch (1959) has been reprinted (see previous blog) and two former teachers of the school Kees Boeke founded, published a book about Kees Boeke and the origin of the powers-of-ten-idea. The school he founded, the Werkplaats Kindergemeenschap, Bilthoven, still exists.
- youtube: Powers of Ten™ (1977) (length: 9 min)
- book: Kees Boeke: 'Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps' (1957)
- book: Kees Boeke: 'Wij in het heelal, een heelal in ons' (1959)
- wikipedia: Kees Boeke (1884-1966)
- previous blog (Dutch): De Tiendesprongen van Kees Boeke (10 Oct)
Postscript 16 Oct: Powers of Ten video (2011) added.
 According to one of the authors, Jos Heuer, the girl is Mirjam Freudenthal. [19 Oct 2021).