Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Bill Nye The Science Guy and I Will Never Be Friends

APRIL FOOLS! This is a guest post written by Mimi of It's Not All Flowers and Sausages! My post on Stress & Motivation was sneakily posted at I.M.C. Guy. Gotcha!

Seriously. This really isn't a sounds funny, but really, it is somewhat tragic. Every single time I attempt a science experiment, without fail, the science experiment will either fail or yield some bizarre results that end up reinforcing the exact opposite idea in my students. Last year, because of an experiment gone wrong, I may have inadvertently taught an entire classroom full of children that yes, a plant can grow better unattended in a dark closet than it can in a window with lots of TLC. I mean, come on! How does the plant in the closet grow?

Recently, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try yet another science experiment. Despite my previous failures, I was pretty confident (read: cocky) that this one would work (Arrogance is not a problem for, yes...arrogance, no, no problem there.) We were going to germinate seeds in a paper towel.

Easy, right?

I mean, anyone can do it, right?

I mean, how could it go wrong....right?

I took every precaution. I used seeds from the same little packet as my Super Colleague With A Green Thumb. I researched the proper amount of water as to not dry out or drown the seeds. I carefully spread the seeds across the paper towel. I gave them a prime spot in the window so that they would receive an adequate amount of sunlight and air. In short, I wasted an unimaginable amount of time making sure that I did this experiment to the letter.

It was me against the seeds.

And the seeds won.


I knew I had had yet another scientific mishap (read: f***up) when I walked into my classroom this morning and was literally b**** slapped in the face by the stench of rotting seeds. Yes, that's right, not only did my seeds not germinate, they turned into a stench producing mound of mush.

Me: (to myself...and maybe the few mice who were listening) You have GOT to be kidding me.

I promptly threw the seeds away and opened every window I could. When the kids came to school that morning, I copped out and told them that someone must have come into our room and thrown them away by accident, thinking they were garbage. Yea, I lied to the children. But I just couldn't bear admitting to them (and myself) that yet another science experiment had gone horribly, and stinkily (is that a word?) wrong.

After this experiment-gone-wrong, I decided it was time to reflect. (And I don't mean "reflect" in a BS buzzword-y way, I mean really think about what the freak is going on!) I would think that with some of my past experiences, I would be a prime candidate for dealing with all things weird, and gross. You know, science-y stuff.

I mean, hello, what about the time when I walked into my classroom and found a mouse on a sticky trap who was a) still alive and b) being eaten by several of his friends who had come out of the wood work. Um, survival of the fittest anyone? A little Darwinism with your morning meeting? No?

Ooo...or the time when a mouse climbed up my bulletin board? I could take that moment alone and do a whole thing on habitat, right?

Well, what about all my experience with bodily fluids? Let's see, there was the time when the nurse refused to see one of my little friends because she wasn't sick enough and I was forced to send her to the nurse with a trash can full of her own vomit. If that isn't data collection, I don't know what is.

Or the time when another little friend was so excited about a special project I had asked to her work on, that she ignored the nagging feeling in her bladder and, after a few minutes, literally burst with pee all over the floor? Some basic anatomy? Maybe a teachable moment on the urinary system?

Ok, if that doesn't boil your beaker, how about the time when I had a student walk into the classroom literally covered in his own feces from head to toe? Have I gone too far?

Real world experience with all things science? Check. I then moved on to reflect upon my understanding of the actual teaching of science. Well, there was the time that my Super Colleagues and I were planning a unit on soil and The Weave suggested that instead of us requesting that the school, gasp, buy us actual soil, that perhaps we could encourage our students to (and I quote) "imagine the dirt." Um, yea. True story. And right away I thought to myself, "self, imagining soil does not make for good science teaching." I get the whole actual hands on thing.

So, in review, yes, I have all of this "real world" experience with things I would classify under "science", and totally get the whole hands on thing, but for some reason a proper staged experiment will always fail in my room. Plants don't grow, seeds don't germinate, food coloring does not go up the celery stalk. Ever. It has gotten so ridiculous, that I am the butt of many a school joke. Which is cool, I can take it, but at some point we need to think of the children, people! Think of the children!

I will not be deterred! Today, armed with the most expensive organic soil I could find and a bag of seeds that I made the manager of the gardening department swear up and down would germinate in the shade and actually GROW, we planted seeds in individual cups.

Keep your (green) fingers crossed for me. My science-ego can't take it anymore.