Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spontaneous generation?

Explaining the daphnia was problematic enough, then came the mosquitoes. Now I got a tank full of fish fry darting about with no adult fish in sight.

Yes, of course, I do not believe in spontaneous generation. There must be a reason, and I have a hypothesis or two to explain where the fry came from.

But what do I tell the children?

Children who never saw a carrot develop from a seed before this year?
Children who never saw saw slugs before?
Children who are just starting to trust me when I tell them that the world that matters is the world that they can observe?

I'm not going to tell them anything. An empty tank now has a couple dozen fry, really just eyeballs with a tail attached, cute as can be and not likely to survive the week. I'll let the students figure it out.

My lambs crammed together around the tank, marveling at the tiny critters that started their lives right here in Room B362. They see what they see.

If I tell them what they're supposed to think I'll ruin the whole thing.

The fish fry photo taken from here.


Mary Ann Reilly said...

I imagine one reason they are trusting you is that you afford them the opportunity to think and in doing so also convey a belief in their capacity to learn. This is a fine example of occasioning learning, not thinking one can actually cause it.

Shannon said...

Ah that is so cool. It is moments like this when you understand in a new way why it seemed reasonable for people to believe in spontaneous generation for millenia.

One of the things I love about science is that is calls us to dig deeper. To try and find new ways to find out what is going on. Encouraging us to doubt.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

I had not heard of 'occasioning learning" before, but its a lovely turn of words, and one I will borrow.

I am letting go more and more in the classroom. So far, it's working, and working well. Go figure.

Dear Shannon,

The more I do this, the more I think my value lies in serving as curator of the classroom. Let the kids explore things that matter, and good things happen.

To be sure, "letting go" does not mean less work--I may be working harder now than ever. But the returns have been amazing.

Kathryn J said...

You are an inspiration! I think I might try having an aquarium in my room after our winter recess next week. I found one on the side of the road that holds water.

My students planted seeds on Thursday. It was supposed to bottle biology but some didn't want to seal the bottles up so they made open containers. Most didn't add enough water. One boy planted the radish seed 3 inches deep claiming that's how he did it when he lived in Yemen. Some are watering with Brisk tea and gatorade.

Who knows what will happen with any of it but the students are very excited about it!

doyle said...

Dear Kathryn,

One of my biggest joys in writing this blog is seeing others adopt more life in the classroom.

My other big joy is encouraging people to plant a seed somewhere, anywhere, to see what happens (and maybe eat the result).

(Hope you get the chance to revisit your blog once things settle down a bit--first year teaching is grueling!)