Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sharks and Smells and Back to the Future

When we lived in Florida, the older kids had an opportunity to participate in a workshop on sharks at the local Discover Museum, and they jumped at the chance. From digging for shark teeth in the huge sand pit to the video on local shark species, they loved every minute of the day. When it came time to go and do their own shark dissections, they were on their own; I am not one that handles those kinds of things very well, particularly the smell of formaldehyde. Somehow it takes me back to my own high school days of frog dissections and screaming girls and nausea—GROSS! 

When all of the kids tumbled out of the dissection room, they were so excited with what they had seen and couldn’t wait to tell me all about it! We piled into the family van and headed for home, full of memories, shark teeth, and there was that dreaded smell again! Windows down, air conditioning on full blast, we did make it all the way home without any major incidents—hurray! Through it all, they kept chattering on and on about all that they had learned and been able to do and never even noticed the SMELL.

I discovered that sometimes the pluses of hands-on learning greatly outweigh the things like unattractive smells and other temporary obstacles. They never noticed the SMELL. They had learned so much and couldn’t wait to share. What a difference a positive attitude and learning environment can make!

I still can’t stand the smell, but it was one of my first huge moments of clarity when I could easily see that the way they learn has so much more to do with the memory and retention than anything else. The rest, as they say, is history!


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