Soaking Students

Today I took my IB Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) students outside to collect some water and soil around our school grounds.  The plan was for the students to perform pH, nitrate, ammonia, and dissolved oxygen tests on the samples to ascertain the health of the surrounding canal water and soil.  Additionally, they will determine the Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of the water.  Furthermore, they will calculate the Trent Biotic Index of the canal water.  Thus, they will have personally experienced every aspect of Topic 5.2 of the ESS course.  Sounds reasonable, right?  I thought so!

So, we eagerly headed outside equipped with labeled containers for their samples.  The students divided the labor equally and set to work.  One student jokes, “I’ll collect the water because maybe I’ll fall in again”.  I am not amused because he actually did “fall” into the canal water in the autumn when we were doing another experiment.  I recollect seeing him stroll towards me on the wooded pathway that fall day.  I wasn’t sure what I was observing so I turned to the other students and appealed, “Please tell me that David is not walking towards me in his underwear”.  The students solemnly confirmed that David was, indeed, walking towards me in his underwear.  I did not want a repeat event. 

Fortunately, we collected the samples without further ado and returned to the classroom for testing.  However, upon viewing the test instructions, the students realized that they actually needed more canal water.  Guess who volunteered to round up more water?  That’s right, David.  I hesitated but a colleague who had stepped into the room volunteered to accompany David to help him retrieve the water.  I felt assured with this plan and stayed with the other students while they prepped the rest of the lab.  A few minutes later, my colleague returned with the pitcher of water but not the student.  “David fell into the canal”, she reported, “and has gone to the shower room to clean up”.   Really?  Really?  Really?  Should I laugh or should I be furious?  I was battling both reactions in that moment.

Shattered beakers, cracked test tubes, broken thermometers, fractured syringes, splattered solutions, spilled powders, all kinds of random, unthinkable messes and even fires can be part of my job.  However, today, the drenched docent was my limit.  Thankfully, it was Friday afternoon.

Will I return on Monday with a full lab agenda for the week?  Of course! Despite the untidiness and chaos associated with guiding MS and HS students through the scientific method, it’s worth every minute!  Will I return to the canals for further investigations?  Absolutely.  But without David.