Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Bill Nye the Science Guy And I Will Never Be Friends

For those of you who didn't click on over to Teach Forever yesterday to read my April Fools Day post, here it is again.

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 reciveve an adequate amount of sunlight and air. In short, I wasted an unimaginable amoutn of time making sure tat I did this experiemnt to the leter.

It was me against the seeds.

And the seeds won.


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


laylablue said...

at age 34 i am looking back over my life at all the times a parent or teacher told me similar lies...
"oh, someone must have come in and taken....(fill in blank)..."
it always catches me by surprise when i hear myself telling this fib to my own children, suddenly realizing how many times my parents did this to me :)

Kimberly said...

I remember your "imagine the dirt" post and I still shake my head every time I think of it. As for the "failed" science experiments, I wish you were across the hall because then I wouldn't be the only one with failures. By the way, been there, done that with the rotten seeds. The difference is mine were on a bulletin board display by the front board and didn't smell in the AM but did by the time the school evaluation team arrived at noon - we couldn't locate the odor!

The Science Goddess said...

Just remember next time (!) that you can put the seeds and moist paper towels into baggies. Voila! Instant greenhouse. Tape the baggies to a window and you're good to go.

Tom.... said...

I have had kids hurl and others play with their poo poo, but never in the same class. It was always the functional class that gave me these cherished, golden experience. Those were indeed the days, my friend.
I like the Science Goddess' ideas, but don't you just hate it when the solution is so simple and you never even see it?
Try the baggies and let us know how it goes.

Mister Teacher said...

I'm just gonna go ahead and disagree with the Science Goddess right now.

As someone who has year after year, put seeds into baggies, with wet paper towels and adequate sunlight, yet STILL had to deal with pathetic if ANY germination. . . sometimes it's just destiny...

KellyJMF said...

The seeds will germinate better in the dark because they're designed to be in the soil when they do their thing. Try starting them somewhere dark and then moving them when they sprout leaves.

Jason Oller said...

I had a cactus die of dehydration!! Seriously!!

Just put the seeds on a moist papertoweland wrap them loosely in tinfoil. Check them in about a week.

You could also just imagine the sprouts!!

I don't have a green thumb unless I accidentally poke myself with a sharpie.

jerel said...

Good luck with your garden.

I shared the "imagine the dirt" with all of my colleagues. They agreed it was hysterically funny to say but so sad that someone actually suggested it.

Chaz said...

As a science teacher you select only those experiments that work time and again. I never try an experiment that is new before my students. I save them for days that the students are not in the school.

Unknown said...

Like most people who are commenting I too have had my full of these "fool proof" science experiments. I just don't get how it doesn't work for me.
I bought a Beta Fish because they could live through anything. It was dead 48 hours later. I feel your pain

The Uninspired Cook said...

I teach science to grades 3-8. I have amazing skills with all manner of materials - rocks and minerals, insects, animals... I can lecture for days on any critter the kids catch and bring in, and handle most of them fearlessly. But give me a plant, and I'm a quivery ball of mush, terrified of the havoc I will wreak with it. Even my littlest kiddos know the answer to "What do plants need to survive?" is "Live somewhere far away from Mrs. A!"

lojma said...

Most of my science experiments go okay, but every year it's the same thing: the rubbed balloons attract each other. They are supposed to repel each other. For ten years I've been sending kids out into the world with a screwed up notion of static electricity. But that doesn't stop me. I'm doing it again next year and damnit those balloons better spring apart.
Very funny read,by the way.

ed notes online said...

I uses to use a paper towel in a baggie and 4 lima beans to a bag. I stapled them to a bulletin board so kids could watch their plant grow. Too much water and there was that smell. Too little and dried limas. We used to get at least one or two in each baggie to grow. We then planed in those school half pint milk containers. One year we actually saw the beans grow flowers and we saw the next gen of beans. All my other experiments failed, in particular the nuclear reactor.

TeachEnEspanol said...

Love this post. Bill Nye and I are only friends because he can teach what I can't. :)

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