Thursday 28 April 2011

Why Didn't I Think Of This Before?

The final course I'm teaching to my BTEC National Diploma class is "Principles of Plant and Soil Science". The little darlings have to look at plant anatomy, physiology and industrial use, before we give them a few crappy £3.50 Homebase soil meters and send them off to the park for an hour. Needless to say, they are not quite as enthused by plant science as they might be (although one of them thought being a "plantologist" was a pretty good job).

In a discussion about pollination and scent, it occurred to me that they might appreciate looking at really stinky flowers. And then the lightbulb lit above my head.

These are teenagers - what better way to get them into plants than to tell them that such an organism exists as the Amorphophallus titanum? And to help them figure out how to translate the name. The shrieks of delight when they worked out (eventually - they didn't know what a phallus was) that some scientist had named it "giant misshapen penis" will stay with me for a very long time.

So I didn't stop there - we looked at orchids that resemble the vulva:

And then the coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica), which is about the size and shape of a human arse:

I have to say, though, having played my trump card of the "bum seed", I still need to make photosynthesis and transpiration interesting through preferably smutty means, or I'll never keep their attention until the end of June.

So there's a challenge for you - let's try and make these topics as filthy as possible to get the BTEC kids interested. Failing which, a thought experiment courtesy of one delicate young lady:

"What would happen if trees farted?"

Thursday 14 April 2011

Microteaches #2: Easter Blitherings

Term ended on Friday. I could (should?) have gone down the pub and faceplanted into a pint or eight, but even that was too much hard work, so I sat in the garden, had two margaritas then decamped to Nando's.

It's been revision for the A-level students this week, so I didn't get much relaxation over the weekend, but yesterday was officially the first day of my holidays. My intellectual capacity deteriorated so much since I left college on Tuesday, that I wrote 7 + 5 = 15 when tutoring yesterday afternoon. Fortunately my GCSE student was equally exhausted, so he didn't mock me too much.

More depressing is the students' lack of numeracy skills - there have been some issues over how to calculate means and percentage increases... I have made a note to go over some of this basic maths for biologists before their exams, or they will be, to use the technical term, fucked.

Teachers in the UK have been frothing at the mouth (or switching off the television) at Jamie's Dream School, where the Rubber-Lipped TwatTM decides he wants to run a school for "kids wot the system's let down innit", or words to that effect.

On the one hand, it has been really good for non-teaching viewers to see what the little darlings can be like (I have some approaching that level of disruption, but they can all be counted on the fingers of one hand, and the moment they decide to channel Harlem, they'll be OUT!). On the other hand, I can't help looking over my shoulder in case Pob Michael Gove decides to replace us all with dodgy celebs. Would my "Physiology of Human Regulation and Reproduction" classes be more informative if Kinga from Big Brother taught them perhaps?!

For some really superb analysis, check out posts from The Behaviour Guru - Tom Bennett's descriptions of each episode have been some of the few things I have read aloud to Paul recently (Doctor Grumpy being another).

In other news, Jabba is in excellent health, and absolutely adores his palm tree. I think perhaps he's been listening to too much Jimmy Buffett.
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