Monday, July 1, 2013

Biology matters

I dropped the red worm into the beaker--a pulsing black ribbon undulated its way over, then attached itself to the worm. A second leech soon join the first. The worm writhed as the two predators took what they needed.

This went on for several minutes. One student was repulsed (as I was), another fascinated. The worm paled as the leeches feasted.

Had I done it during class, I'm sure I would have had complaints, for good reasons. There may be better reasons, though, for showing it.

Most of us without septic tanks have no idea where our shit goes. Most of us without wells have no idea where how our water gets to our taps. Most of us who eat meat have never slaughtered for food.

Claws of death

Getting a high school diploma in New Jersey requires successful completion of  a year of biology. Seems a fair question to wonder why.

Here are the reasons I think kids should learn some biology:
Not sure the state department of education exactly concurs, but they do say that "(s)cientifically literate students possess the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity."

I've yet to produce a scientifically literate student--it takes years for that, and even most college graduates do not come close to the goal, but I will keep trying anyway.

Because it matters....


Justin Stortz said...

I hope you'll keep trying. I think I would have loved your biology class.

- @newfirewithin

doyle said...

Dear Justin,

I hope so--I'm pretty relentless, what we do is important.

And it all gets down to stories (which you already know).

cope said...

I am in love with your commitment to telling stories. I feel that my own teaching improved considerably when I finally (after 10...15?) years started to fold stories into my lessons. Be they stories of my own experiences or, say, the story of Kepler and Brahe, that really is what the kids will pay attention to. The more dramatic the story elements (Brahe's pet deer/moose getting drunk and falling down the stairs, his gold and silver prosthetic noses, etc.), the more likely they are to pay attention.

Joe Romm, whose most recent book, "Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga" makes the point that effective communication depends on such elements as rhetoric and metaphor to successfully tell a story. I've only read excerpts so far (I'm lobbying my library to purchase it) but it presents historical examples of effective communication in exactly the same theme as you are actually doing it.


doyle said...

Dear cope,

Took me awhile to learn this, too. I need to learn the Brahe stories, and I need to get my hands on that book.

One of the best things about blogging is learning from folks who respond.