Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Washing Sharks

It's shark week here in my Marine Science Classroom. Along with the usual stimulating discussions and presentations, we are also dissecting the spiny dogfish shark. In a rare and happy bit of shark serendipity, the dogfish shark is the most abundant of the sharks and actually has an increasing population that can support a regulated fishery.

I would have a moral dilemma if it were different as I am a shark whisperer who is squarely on the side of the world's sharks. I only use 10 per year ... so in two decades of teaching, I have removed about 200 from the ocean for education.

Turnabout is fair play though ... maybe one of their cousins will remove me from the ocean some day.

It could happen.

Day one of the shark lab is the external lab. Step one is to give the preserved shark a good detergent bath.

This removes the fishy oil that seeped out of the liver during the preservation and shipping process.

That makes the whole lab more pleasant.

We recycled last year's leftover science fair project display boards into cutting boards for this lab. The sharks are just too big for our standard dissection pans.

This freshly scrubbed shark is showing his characteristic heterocercal caudal fin, but you already knew that. The cut in the body just anterior of the caudal fin is where the supply company accessed the circulatory system of the shark to pump in a pink latex. This makes it easier to track the route of arteries once inside the shark.

At the end of the first day's lab, I asked each group to use a bit of flagging to distinctively mark their specimen so they could get the same shark back on day two.

That is what's going on in the photo above.

This team has a nice dissection going.

This type of activity ... not dissections only, but all activities where the students are semi- autonomous and accomplishing a real task is learning at it's best.
I wish we did more of these hands on activities, but they take stuff and stuff takes money ... so we squeeze them in as funds and standardized test obsessed school districts allow.

During this activity, I was just their resource center and coach ... if they needed me, they asked for help, if not, they ran their own show ... did their own learning.

Think about it grown ups ... the vast store of your knowledge ... did you learn it in school, or have you learned it since school?

Since school, right?

Whether you learned a lot, or a little, in your time on the planet probably is due to a sense of curiosity inspired by a parent or teacher, not facts and figures handed to you on a platter by them. Make me want to know more and I will learn.

These kids completed the required dissection activities and kept going beyond the lab guide, with almost no help from me, because they were curious and eager to know more.
I credit their parents ... mostly.

Knowing how amazing the design of the shark's spiral valve is, or the architecture of his gills won't change their life, but that curiosity thang ... now that can do wonders.

You might say curiosity is at the heart of learning.


threecollie said...

They are lucky to have you. Wish every kid was as fortunate.
It amazes me how much I use what I learned in school every day though, and I tell the kids, "Don't scorn knowledge because you think you won't use it!"
LIke typing. I took it to get out of calculus. At the time I had a job as a vet tech. Not much call for typing. However, today things are different.

kathy a. said...

you are absolutely right about curiosity, and learning by doing!

my HS biology teacher was, bless her heart, completely lame as an educator and very easily distracted. we could usually get her to pull out the candy jar, or start her on telling stories, within the first 5 minutes of class. there wasn't a very high pass rate on AP biology tests, for good reason.

she probably had reasonably good funding for experiments, though, and we did quite a few dissections -- the most engaging part of the classes, and the only thing i remember besides the distractability contest. too bad we couldn't do more hands-on, and that her classes were so easily de-railed.

kathy a. said...

3-collie, i love your comment! so much of what i learned actually turned out to be useful later, in ways i could never predict.

and i'll second typing class -- in which i tied for worst in the class with someone who had a broken finger. this was in the early '70's, and the only job future i could see with that skill was secretarial work, which did not appeal. at. all.

Floridacracker said...

3C and Kathy A,
I hated typing in 8th grade, but was forced to learn it and now am grateful I can "word process" without hunting and pecking at the keys.

CHEF TROLL said...

Boys didn't take typing at Troll County Christian. Learned how to type (badly) on a Commodore 64.

Gads, I'm old! But still curious!

Miz S said...

You said it, man.


Ericka said...

i'm jealous. we had to dissect cats. i'd have MUCH rather done sharks or fetal pigs or anything other than a cat.

tsiya said...

With curiosity and reading skill at work, education follows naturally. Light the fire, and you can't stop them from learning.

pablo said...

I hope you don't get eaten by a shark.

robin andrea said...

It's been so long I can't remember what we dissected when I was in junior high. I wish I had been more interested and curious back then. I was boy-crazy instead. I learned a lot about that, though!

Sandcastle Momma said...

One of the things I love most about homeschooling is generating that curiosity. That and being able to follow that curiosity without having to move forward on a mandated schedule. Too bad the school system doesn't agree. Imagine what you could teach those kids if you could follow their lead!

Floridacracker said...

IBM selectric ... older.

Miz S,
Thanks gal.

Did cats once ... no more!

Lightin as fast as I can!

I appreciate that because I really, really do not want that either.

Well that's a biology lesson too!

The dilemma of depth vs a broad spectrum of exposure.