Worms, screams and the world of international education

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My little heroes this morning are this kid, and the other guy just behind him.

The basketball court was covered with earthworms this morning. Many of our little city-dwelling students were screaming mindlessly or stamping on them. These kids are scared by nature. Part if it is cultural – many people in this part of the world think the utterly beautiful and harmless Gecko is evil, for example. Part of it is their increasingly sad, air-conditioned, sanitized, concrete, screen-based lives. Show them a bug and they run for their lives… and usually an adult comes with a can of poison to kill it.

But these two Grade 2 students saw me picking up the worms and helped me out. They were a bit squeamish about it at first, but they soon found out nothing was going to happen and promptly returned all the worms to the soil. I made sure I made a big deal of how proud I was of them, but I walked away thinking a number of thoughts:

  • We teach kids they must take care of their environment, but do we get them out there properly experiencing it? I have written about this here.
  • How can we say we are developing curious students if their reaction to things they don’t know or understand is to scream or kill?
  • What do we do about cultural beliefs – particularly damaging ones – that we believe are ridiculous?
  • Caring for things – anything really – needs to be modeled. It is clear that this is not happening at home for many of the students in this part of the world – quite the opposite it seems. So, how do we put adult modeling at the forefront of everything we do in schools?
  • If a student goes all the way through an international school and still screams at worms but gets into a good university, can we say we’ve “educated” them?

 

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7 comments

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  2. Amanda

    It makes me want to cry when I see that scream or kill reaction to nature. Witnessed recently on the bus on a field trip. Bunch of kids making a song and dance about a bug no bigger than their finger nail. I gently took the bug and asked the bus driver to open the window to the horror of the parent helpers who were asking me why I didn’t just kill it. Didn’t even know where to start with that reply. With modelling that behaviour what chance do the children have. Our school corridors are plastered with posters created in STP units about saving paper/trees/water/energy/tigers/sharks and the students want to be ‘saved’ from the tiniest bug. Something has gone wrong! I’d love to see the focus in schools shift to fostering a love and respect for nature. Why would you truly want to protect something you had no respect or understanding of?

    • sherrattsam

      Yes, sadly 99% of sharing the planet units are just an act, a pretense… rather sobering. Ay action that comes from them is often tokenistic and usually lasts (maybe) for the duration of the unit before being forgotten. I love your story about the bus – its so hard to hold back from snapping at parents in those situations. It only serves as an awful reminder of how much we are fighting against… perhaps to no avail!

  3. Pascale

    I experienced the same thing in gardening with lower kinder (3yo) to mid primary (9yo). Sometimes the worst reactions come from the adults (teachers and parents) which is not at all useful in encouraging risk taking and having an open mind. I tell these people that actually we have tiny microbes and bugs all over our bodies inside and out which help us stay clean and digest etc. This stops them (shock tactics) and teaches them respect for tiny things everywhere.

    • sherrattsam

      Ha ha… yes, that is funny – the adult reactions are often worse. Naturally, children learn how to react from the adults around them, again reinforcing the need for positive modeling.

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