Saturday, January 6, 2018

Life in the Classroom

Orchids in the classroom.  What dangers lurk? I do not remember seeing any living thing besides humans in an elementary classroom during my first four years of school. I think an aquarium (which we were not allowed to touch) appeared around 5th grade.  Then no more through high school.  In 10th grade, we studied biology which means "the study of life" but we only studied dead stuff, much of it preserved with formaldehyde which is carcinogenic - speeding us along the road to deadness, I suppose.

When I moved to the West Coast to begin teaching biology some 10 years later, there was an entirely different atmosphere.  In our enthusiasm to catch up with and surpass the Russians who had just launched Sputnik, smart science teachers were given a lot of freedom.  I did lots of things with my students without asking permission and seldom got into trouble.  We typed out own blood and made blood smears in order to study cell types under a microscope; we did a comparative study of the behavior of centipedes and millipedes, and many other lab experiences that would not be allowed in most places today.  But, then, we got ahead of the Russians - no need to be smart about science any more.

This is just a fragment of the part of my book that will be about experiences with science teaching, but the trigger for these memories was my drawing of an orchid shown above.  One of my teaching colleagues a few years ago, here in Quincy, had this orchid in her office and many kids enjoyed visiting it, then some would stop by my office next door to hear me tell about how many orchids are pollinated by wasps and other insects that seem to be mistaking the shape of the flower for the genitals of an insect mate.  I commend any teacher who insists on having some living things in their classroom besides students and supervisors.

My next post, withdrawn from the memory bank, will be about one of my first-grade math lessons.

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