Saturday, November 8, 2008

A lesson plan unlikely to be used

Course: College prep biology
Unit: Ecology
Lesson topic: Your place in the food chain


1. Recognize human connection to food chain
2. Equate consumption with acquisition of energy
3. Learn what meat (e.g., hamburger) comes from which animal (cow)
4. Develop appreciation for life
5. Break students out of their cultural cocoon
NJCCS/Tech. Standards: 5.1A, 5.1B. 5.1C; 5.5A; 5.7B; 9.3A

Materials/Teaching Aids/Resources:

Two live fish
Holding tank
Small billy club
Fillet knife
(Consider live chicken and chopping block if time allows)
Tissues (to dry eyes)
Do Now:
Who slaughtered the last piece of meat you ate?

Anticipatory set: put guppy in beaker holding a leech not fed in two months.

KWL: discuss what students know about sources of food; lead discussion beyond "the grocery store"

Visual: Show brief video on current husbandry practices

Kinesthetic/authentic learning: Slaughter fish in class. Allow interested students to hold fish prior to killing. Ask students where fish got energy to carry out life's functions. Ask students what happens to source of energy once fish is dead. Is the energy still useful to fish? To us?

Guided discussion/critical thinking: Discuss ways to humanely kill animals; ask what other methods of dispatch could have been used?

1. Catch a fish
2. Eat it

I am not a vegetarian, though I do go through intermittent phases pretending I am.

Last night my son and I slaughtered 5 fish we are eating tonight. Slaughtering fish is not easy for us, nor should it be. We can try to minimize slaughter by calling fish "lesser" animals. We can pretend no pain is involved. I did not raise my son to pretend.

Before we took the fish home, we made sure we had enough for dinner. If not, we release them.

We could never deliberately slaughter a creature in science class unless it's something "less" than a fish. Apparently flatworms and protozoa are fair game. We feed crickets and fruit flies to frogs and salamanders in class, so insects don't count either.

Children in New Jersey cannot be required to do a dissection on a real animal. (I use "real" to counter the "virtual" animals on computers that can be whittled away.)

This is a good law. A better law would add the provision that no child may dissect an animal unless the child had a clue why she was dissecting the animal. And the "why" cannot be "cuz it's kewl."

Life is messy. We take great care in school to put things in boxes and categories, to feed into the great mythology we have created, a mythology that now precludes children from knowing where their food originates. We keep biology clean.

Life is messy. We're part of a huge morass of energetic goo that replicates and plays and consumes and replicates and plays and consumes some more. Life involves fluids and combustion and not just a little bit of mystery.

Thanksgiving is coming.

The industrialized turkey most of us eat on Thanksgiving Day has become so grotesquely shaped that toms can no longer mate with the hens. The Butterball turkey you're eating most likely was conceived with the help of 3 humans.

One or two humans had the task of "milking" the tom. There are directions for this:

Collecting semen from a chicken or turkey is done by stimulating the copulatory organ to protrude by massaging the abdomen and the back over the testes. This is followed quickly by pushing the tail forward with one hand and, at the same time, using the thumb and forefinger of the same hand to “milk” semen from the ducts of this organ.
And what do you do with the semen?

I won't show the video in class, but I will mention the process.

Being part of the web of life is a mystery, a blessing.
Being part of an industrialized food web defiles the blessing.
It is our obligation to know the difference.


Anonymous said...

Note to self:

Do not read one of Michael Doyle's posts while eating a bowl of turkey and rice soup.

True story.

I love this post in that it points out the disconnect we (not only our students, but it seems especially them) have with our environment. The disconnect we have with what is outside of our inner selves, our inner interests.

Kind of reminds me of a video I watched earlier today, by Alan Watts, on Wholeness.

doyle said...

Sorry about your soup.

One of my favorite books ever is Alan Watts' The Book; On the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are.

Imagine the fun he would have had with blogs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reference to The Book. I found a pdf copy not so copyright-kosher...but, well, it does make it easy to read on my little computer.

lucychili said...

Thankyou for this blog
You ask very useful questions about how education is scoped, and what that means for learning. Here is a blog post asking that question.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your post. As a psychologist i think it's psychically useful for those who eat meat to have the experience at times of killing their food.

Anonymous said...

I was reminded of this post when I scribbled this one tonight: