Two buckets of pond water now sit in the kitchen--some will overwinter in the basement under fluorescent lights, some in the windowsill of our classroom. (One year I had mayflies in January.)
The classroom pond water has been there for years now. I should really start it over--as the years go by, the evaporating water leaves behind traces of salts, and eventually it will be too salty for pond life. For now, though, the water fleas still dance among a few translucent snails and the knolls of blue-green algae covering the bottom. All sorts of microscopic critters flit through the duckweed.
I could start over, dumping my windowsill pond down into the drain, starting fresh. Starting over without consequences, though, is a tricky thing, possibly impossible, in life, human or otherwise. Everything we do has consequences.
So I work with what I have, and what I have includes the great-great-great-great offspring of daphnia from my backyard summers ago.
The metaphysical (or at least the anti-reality folks, or ARFs as I shall call them) crowd has me worried. The Daily Show ran a piece with an ARF, Noelle Nikpour, yipping away against science:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Weathering Fights - Science: What's It Up To?|
I have several children who know more about the Mayan calendar than they do about evolution. I have more than several children who do not know their connection to the earth. We tell children that our planet is round, and that Doritos are junk food, without offering a shred of evidence for either.
I'll concede that the Earth is round. Took me awhile to believe it, but after years of looking at boats disappear over the edge of the sea, shadows change over the seasons, and photos from satellites, it's easier believing it's round than flat.
Doritos, however, are miracles, a sophisticated blend of complex organic molecules fused together by plants using the energy emanating from the sun, itself a miracle, fusing hydrogen into helium. They're food, and pretty good food at that--and all food is biology at its gory best.
I get one shot to teach children biology--for most of my kids, this is the last time they will study biology in any formal sense, ill prepared to face years of propaganda via the Noelle Nikpours, Rick Perrys, and Rick Warren (what is it with Ricks?) of the world.
Tomorrow I will haul a couple of gallons of water almost a mile, as my ancestors did (though for a different reason), to bring more "real" life to my biology classroom. In the end, I cannot hope to compete with the propaganda fed both inside and out the school by the monied interests who know more about demographics than democracy, more about profit than people.
My hope is to give children a taste of just how large this universe is, how wonderful, how deeply ingrained we are with it, and it with us.
A bucket of pond water holds more life than most of us can imagine.
It starts with a single drop.
Or I could just teach to the state test, and put the microscopes away.