Get Your Hands Dirty; Learn Something

If you look up the definition of Biology in any textbook you’ll find something to the gist of “the study of life.”

Now, if you didn’t notice, life is all around us. You can’t get up from your bed every morning, go through your morning routine, and walk out your front door without being aware of Life.

From the mites that thrive in our sheets feeding off our flaked off skin, being constantly replaced and healed to keep our first line of defense from infection intact.

Even washing the sebum (that oily substance) from our hair and body in the shower, which we secrete as another secondary protective mechanism. Finally, the glory that is the outdoors, it is a whirlwind of the interactions and symbiosis of life. Photosynthesis, predation, decomposition, mitosis, I could go on. Countless phenomena I don’t go a morning without having the chance to experience.

For most people these mundane routines are not filled with Biology, and maybe some of you are thinking, ‘I wish I didn’t know about those mites…’ but my goal is to show my students that Biology, life, and all its intrigue surround us in our everyday life, in all that we do.

In my opinion there’s only one really good way to do this, only one really good way to learn Biology: You have to get your hands dirty. We have get out there in the world and look at it with new eyes. Biological eyes.

My first unit of the year is a projected-based learning opportunity that focuses on Ecology, studying the interactions between organisms and their environment. This is very conducive to getting out into the world. The project is to create a miniature ecosystem that we then use as a model to study topics such as food chains, competition, symbiosis, and succession.

So, this week was spend outside, surrounded by Biology getting dirty as we searched for, and collected specimens that would inhabit our ecosystems. Some students stayed to the path and collected from the edge, some climbed and crawled through brush and grass to chase a critter, and some got more dirty than others, but everyone was out there engaged in the Biological world.

My personal favorite part was when two students went barefoot, ankle deep in a pond to get an illusive tadpole, reminded me of what I would have done.

And I’d say most of my students’ favorite part was when I end up shin deep in a mud hole, in dress shoes and chinos.

But hey, in Biology that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes you’ve just got to get your hands (or feet) dirty.