Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reflections on summer adventures as summer comes to a close (part 1)

The island courses are over, and I have (mostly) moved in to the new place. It is in a wonderful location, and I feel very good about it. A few noteworthy things have happened that you might be interested in...

One of my Marine Environmental Science students who stayed on the island to take another class after ours finished up had an amazing experience that involved her research project from our class and the woman who was her scientific inspiration for the whole project. This woman (Karen Pryor) has written books about clicker training with dogs (among other things) and in one of them she wrote a paragraph about training a hermit crab to ring a bell for food. My student (Lily) had read the book and wanted to see if she could do the same thing. Lily used operant conditioning to train a Green Crab (Carcinus maenus) to interact with a metal sinker in order to earn a food reward. I have to admit that none of the teaching staff of our course really thought it would work, but Lily was so eager to try that we gave her the go-ahead. Anyhow, Karen Pryor just so happened to come out to the island, meet Lily, and hear all about this project. She was very impressed, and Lily was overjoyed! Dr. Pryor wrote about it in her blog and you can read about it here. Most students are not lucky enough to meet their idols when they are in high school. Most high school students probably don't have science idols in high school (I did - E.O. Wilson, still an idol!). I can only imagine what Lily will accomplish in the years to come and how much this experience will be worth in terms of motivation and inspiration! This is an especially wonderful story for me as a teacher. It is pretty rare to see so directly a class activity impact the life and future of a student's life.

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