Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fruit flies like a banana....

Living fruit flies over three generations is an ideal creature for teaching biology in all its glory. Students learn so much more than genetics with all the potential for disaster: mold, slime, crustiness, lost flies, complaining neighbors (threatening music teachers that blame all insects, bacteria, the world's ills on biologists!), impossible statistics, realization that not all data are clean (except in physics), appreciation for the care of living things, patience, and new found respect and fond regard for lowly dipterans.

I got the fruit flies just a few hours ago, and already lost two--one squished when I pulled on the foam stopper, the other is still very much alive, exploring the room.

I chilled them long enough to keep them still, not so long that they froze to death.

Part of me weighs on the hubris of using mutated forms of a living creature to demonstrate how science doesn't work. (My virgin females probably aren't anymore, a bigger problem than you might suppose if you don't know fruit flies. And there's really no reason why you should.)

The other part?  A kid in a candy store.

I can tell you a million reasons why I teach science, and why it matters. But mostly I teach because I love teaching, and selfish man I am, hope to keep on doing just that.

Yes, I know there are wonderful computer simulations for this lab, and I may well end up using them anyway
after one colony escapes and the other mates with the white flies pestering our class veggies.
Doesn't hurt to attempt real biology now and again in a classroom.
Some things were done better a half century ago.

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