September 14, 2009
The tickle of many little feet
Last weekend, we gave students the opportunity to dangle on ropes high in the trees. But we gave them, too, a chance to investigate the earth under their feet: to look at moss, to stare at fish in a pond, to examine seed pods, and to hold a millipede in their hands.
The students were given handheld GPS units and sent off in small groups to find faculty members hidden at stations scattered throughout the woods and fields of our retreat site. One station was in the old overgrown apple orchard, for instance, another by the pond, another in the pine woods. At a rock ampitheater in the woods, I spent the afternoon with Science Guy, a colleague who teaches animal behavior, and Entomologist, who studies bugs.
We had each group of students for twenty minutes; mostly we spent the time getting to know each other. Science Guy and I had both planned to talk about required summer reading book. But Entomologist couldn’t resist looking under rocks and finding millipedes, and teaching us fun facts about millipedes. As we talked, we passed the millipedes from person to person. Our discussion kept getting interrupted by squeals as the many feet of the millipedes tickled the bare arms of the students.
Only one student protested at the sight of the millipede. Gray Sweatshirt Student said, “Oh, no, I can’t.” Red-haired Student said right away, “Yes, you can. I’ll hold my arm next to yours and we can let it crawl back and forth. It’ll be okay.”
We all stopped talking and watched as they put their arms together, and the millipede crawled onto the bare arm of Gray Sweatshirt. She squealed and pulled her arm away, but the millipede clung. She looked away, and then down, fascinated. “Look! I’m holding it!”
Science Guy has been working with students in the field for decades. He looked at me and smiled. “This part never gets old.”
Posted by jo(e)