The "WOW" Factor of Nature!
How can you NOT love this?
This past week in my biology class was spent on a unit on classification and taxonomy. This is one of my favorite topics to teach because the diversity of life on Earth is so incredible and amazing. Just now, I am sitting at my kitchen table looking out over our large back yard. The evidence of adaptation to our current environment astounds me. I am making a list to share with my students on Monday:
1. A hummingbird is at my feeder. (Yes, in the deep south, we already have hummingbirds back from the winter.) Its beak is perfectly adapted to extract the nectar from any flower.
2. The bees are very active this morning, buzzing in and out of every flower in sight. Flowering plants take advantage of the bee, and cover its body with pollen every time it lands on a flower. What a perfect way to deliver a sperm cell to an egg cell of a flower a block away.
3. The birds are singing like crazy this morning! What a perfect way to find a mate and establish behavioral barriers between the species.
5. The fruiting bodies of mushrooms are poking up from the ground to take advantage of the deluge of rain we have had this week. Water will spread their spores to great distances.
6. A great blue heron is wading at the edge of our shallow pond. Its body is perfectly adapted for wading and grabbing up the small fishes it sees.
It is an amazing time of the year to be a science teacher. Nature is packed full of examples that we can share with our students. I certainly hope that my students come away from this unit with the same "awe" as I have when considering how natural selection has brought us to this point in Earth's history. Every organism in our sight is adapted to this particular environment. All we have to do is to look carefully at our surroundings and we will see a multitude of examples of adaptation.
My challenge to you is this: When Spring hits your particular area of this beautiful earth, take a class period and go outside with your students. Give them a magnifying glass. Have them make a list of the living organisms they see, and have them describe how they are adapted to the environment. Yes, some of them will be "off task" and some of them will misbehave, but some of them will get hooked on nature for life! I teach high school students, and I am stunned each year at how few of them have ever planted a seed, taken a walk through the woods, hung a bird feeder at their home, thrown "helicopter" seeds into the air and watched them spin, watched a spider spin a web, the list could go on and on!
These children will be responsible for making decisions about our planet in just a short number of years. We better get them excited about nature. We better make sure they understand how their actions impact our planet. Our students are the future caretakers of this beautiful planet and there is not an "app" for that. I hope that when they are adults we have taught them enough about science and nature that they can make informed decisions about how to take care of it.