science and education
posted by: jdzurisin
I love spending time at Adams High School, I really do. There are days I go and feel like I made no difference whatsoever, and then there are days where I feel like I’m able to at least reach one kid. Like last Friday, I lectured in one of the gen bio classes about organelles in the cell. It was so difficult to come up with a way to explain the difference between a vacuole (like a plastic baggie) and a lysozome (like a garbage disposal) when the kids barely had the basic concepts down. I mean, sure I can take the basic components of a cell, give them a ‘macroscopic definition’ (ie, baggies for vacuoles, etc), but does that really help these kids understand what I’m talking about?
Many of my students come from broken homes, or they live below the poverty line, or their lives have been affected by gang violence. Do they care that DNA is contained inside a membrane-bound nucleus in a eukaryotic cell but that it’s just a free floating mess inside a prokaryotic cell? Probably not. But last Friday, even though several of the kids spent the hour talking or ignoring me, I engaged at least half of them. In an earlier class, when E lectured, the kids were noisy but asked questions, too. Even if their questions seemed way off base, or the stories they had to share didn’t exactly fit the lesson, many of them were paying attention. In fifth hour, there were a couple of students that actually seemed excited about the topic.
It’s bloody challenging to get high-school freshman to leave their problems at the door and focus on learning biology once they enter the science classroom. Not all of them care about school or grades so they see little consequence in not paying attention. I hope, though, that each child will remember something from our class. Even if it was the off-topic conversation I had with one student where he realized that he could petition courts all he wanted, but he couldn’t change the scientific fact that mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child, and not father to child (oh, the irony!)