Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wildness in the classroom

I live in a town that no longer farms. We consume. Corporations and the government call us "consumers." We call ourselves consumers.

If you wrap a few beans in a plastic bag, label the package with a trusted well known food manufacturer distributor, label it with directions on how to properly prepare the beans, set it on a brightly lit shelf in a supermarket, the beans are no longer live plants. The beans are now "food."

The closest thing to wild in our local Shop-Rite is the fresh fish department. A wise fishmonger who knows his stuff will wrap your chosen critter in a plain wrapper, eyes still attached.

Two years ago I bought a package of Goya beans. Each child planted a bean or two (well, a few planted 17 or more, though their plants did not fare well in their tiny 8 oz Styrofoam cup planters).

The children did not believe anything would grow--it was food. It came from the grocery store.

Once the beans sprouted, I frequently reminded the students that the plants were growing bigger using the carbon dioxide they themselves had released from mitochondria deep inside their own cells.

When we weren't looking, some sex occurred in the classroom. Maybe a stray bee wandered in the classroom, may some grains of pollen got knocked loose when I moved the tray, but Jaleesa's plant grew a bean pod.

CO2 + H2O + sunlight = food

I asked Jaleesa if she wanted to eat her bean.
I reminded the class their breath provided a good portion of the carbon dioxide now transformed into sugars in the plant.

"Anybody else want it?"
You really gonna eat it Dr. D?
Water and breath, water and breath, water and breath.

"If no one else wants it, I will"
And I did.

The class was stunned, as though I was eating their breath.
And in a way I was.

I keep religion out of my classroom, but at that moment, Holy Communion came to mind. I kept silent, except for my happy munching.

Wendell Berry, a farmer and, I believe, a prophet,
inspired this with an essay on the necessity of wildness in his essay
"The Body and the Earth" from The Unsettling of America.

The bean drawing is from Clipart ETC, a service of Florida's Education Technology Clearinghouse; the Goya bag is from the Plumgood Food website


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Good teaching too.
Mystery Teacher

Chris said...

It's a big internet. This is where I come now for comfort.

Some years hence, your students will remember the interconnectedness you taught them, and they will go there for comfort.

amanda said...

Hi Dr. Doyle! This is your daughter's college friend Amanda. Wish I'd had you for biology--I might have done better at it. Good luck with the new year!

doyle said...

Christopher: Thanks for the kind words. As for students remembering interconnectedness,I hope so, but I suspect that the best I can hope for is that my students think there's something out there worth looking at. The sense of connection with things outside ourselves comes with time, observation, and curiosity.

Hi Amanda! I'd have known who you were even without the intro--you and Ben have the last surviving active blogs that I read back when she still kept up hers.

Anonymous said...

As always, you slide a big idea insight into a post on a science lesson. I love reading your blog.