The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 04 2012

Getting a Reaction

Day 22:  About 15 minutes into Period 4, I show my students a giant picture of head lice. I ask some students to help the class by explaining what lice are (small bugs that live in your head) and what sewage is (what goes down the drain after you flush). I explain that I know a guy at Harvard who has given us a sample of a new species called sewer lice that can eat through sewage. As they do this, they purify the sewage, making it drinkable.

All the while, I have been shoving a jar in people’s faces, asking if they can see the little lice breathing and swimming. Most students say yes. I remove the lid to the jar, offer it to the most squeamish person I can find, and offer her just a little sip. She will usually cringe and push her seat as far away from me as humanly possible.

I unscrew the lid and make a big show of making a disgusted face. I shrug – maybe it’s not so bad – bring the jar to my face, take a big sip … and the room explodes. Just to complete the effect, I take a pair of tongs and pull a couple of “lice” out of the jar, sniff them, and down those as well. The room explodes again. For the second time this year, a student mocks vomiting in the back of the room.

After a minute or so, I let my kids know they’ve been had. I won’t tell them just yet, but eventually they’ll find out that I was drinking Mountain Dew and Coke with golden raisins “swimming” in it. Meanwhile, my students will never forget that you need to use the Scientific Method to investigate problems, and not just trust what you’re told, or you might get tricked or come to the wrong answer.

In related news, I love my job.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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