Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Getting back to nature

I am a biologist and a science teacher, and have a fascination, a passion even, for all living things. Biology is the study of living things and the processes that make them work and allow them to survive and thrive in their habitats. It is also a study of those habitats, ecosystems, biomes, communities and so on. I see every living thing as having a place and a purpose (although  the jury could still be out on mosquitoes...)

Latterly, I have noticed what Richard Louv calls the "Nature Deficit Disorder" (from The Last Child in the Woods, 2008) really creeping in with students (and adults too). Coincidentally a friend shared this post as I was writing this! We seem to spend a lot of time looking at the screens in front of us to find out about the world around us while ignoring the fact that we could actually get out there and experience it. I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to keeping up with technology; wild horses couldn't drag my Nexus 5 from me. However, I like to observe the flora and fauna around me in a way that seems to pass some people by (and incidentally, I like to take pics using the aforementioned N5).

I have always loved having beasties etc in my classroom, and this has included cockroaches, rats, frogs, fish and a vast assortment of others (especially in the UK; I taught Animal Handling so had all sorts of creatures around) and they actually do stimulate questions from the students.

My frogs often sit and do nothing, but when there is fresh food (flies), they actively hunt and manage to climb glass to catch the flies. Most frogs in Australia and NZ do not have the traditional long tongue that most people associate with frogs, rather they get close to the flies and lunge instead. This has proved to be a good discussion point with students. I like it when they watch, and then share their observations with their friends. Not part of the curriculum, of course, but isn't science about making observations and generating theories?

I feel like it is time to re-connect with the natural world, and get the science curriculum adjusted so that we get to spend more time outdoors, rather than in a classroom or searching stuff up on the internet, especially for Junior Science and Biology. Sadly, this is just my opinion and counts for very little in the grand scheme of things. I don't have the answers, just lots of questions.

In the meantime, I'm heading outside to look at some bugs and plants (maybe some native birds too, if I'm lucky!) I'm going to try and think of ways to get my kids outside as often as possible in the next year or so, and I think it might be time to get some more beasties for my classroom too...

This is a pic of 3 Royal Spoonbills at Parua Bay, just one of the many cool birds I love to see around (You wouldn't believe the number of times I have been asked what a spoonbill even is!)