The Centre runs school programs for children in kindergarten through grade 11; each program centered on concepts found in the BC school curriculum. These field trips disguise learning as fun (Shh, don’t tell the kids!) through hands-on activities and games. The school year has ended and I’d like to share with you a few things I realized while teaching students.
First, teaching is nothing like I expected it would be. There is no perfect recipe for the ideal lesson because the ingredients—the students—differ in so many ways. Every time I teach it is different and I’ve come to appreciate every group of students is unique. You have to be willing to adjust to meet their needs and keep everyone engaged. And I need to accept not everything will go exactly as planned and having a script just won’t work.
This was particularly evident during a Pacific herring dissection! We witnessed every possible reaction possible that day—from the class of 26 grade 6’s—with facial expressions ranging from delight to disgust. I saw:
- Eyes wide
- Eyes closed
- Eyes covered with hands
- Eyes peering through splayed fingers
- Eyes looking down/away/at anything but the fish
- Eyes looking closely through a magnifying glass at the fish body parts
- Backs turned
- Mouths agape
- Mouths covered
- Noses plugged
- Noses heavily sniffing fish parts
- Running from the room
This is especially true about teaching outside! We never know what we will find during a beach exploration (including strange garbage—spark plugs and a broken golf club!) and this keeps you on your toes. It also gives you an opportunity to inform the kids of some of the troubles our oceans are facing, like plastic pollution and garbage on the beach. It opens their eyes and may inspire them to help make things better.
We found a blood star...
...and lots of trash.
Secondly, since taking on this teaching role of educator I have a newfound respect for the teachers I had growing up. Teaching is all about multitasking! Not only must you maintain everyone's attention, but you also must teach the required material in a fun and captivating way, while sticking to a time schedule. I had these kids for an hour—school teachers manage this for an entire school day!
Finally, I have learned kids say some pretty amazing things! They speak their minds and have both the hardest questions and funniest responses. Kids often express exactly how they are feeling, especially if they are bored! They question things adults often accept as true. And above all else, kids say some pretty hilarious things. Often so ‘out there’ I’m not even sure how to respond.
During Adventures of a Crab, a program for preschoolers, I’ve had some entertaining conversations.
After I explained how crabs use their claws to eat, a young boy put his hand up.
Me: “Is this a question or a comment?”
Me: “Ok, go ahead.”
Boy: “When I eat crab I like to dunk it in lots and lots of butter!”
Me: “What do you guys think crabs eat?”
Me: “....Good guess, but no.”
Overall, teaching is a blast! While there are definitely challenging days, there are many more enjoyable ones! I have learned about the teaching process, taught about sea creatures, and shared my love for the ocean with countless kids. As a marine biology student, there is nothing more fun than that!