Sunday, July 18, 2010

(High School) Kids Say the Darndest Things

When I'm teaching elementary kids, I expect them to be completely and totally random. I expect them, especially in science, to ask me all kinds of crazy questions about why the world is the way it is. And I love it!

Now that summer school is over, I'm helping out at the summer camp I've worked for 4 summers. It's a high school biology camp, with heavy loads of chemistry and math. It's kind of unique- I'm a 2nd grade teacher who can teach logarithms, pH, and the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation like they're the back of my hand. I really enjoy it because I love biology (and nearly became a biologist instead of a teacher.)

It's really different teaching high school students. There are reasons why I chose to become an elementary teacher (and not a biology teacher) even though I love biology. There are so many kids already turned off about learning, and way too much attitude that I don't want to deal with. Even though most of these kids come to camp voluntarily, I can see it in some of them, too. For a few weeks, it's fine- but it's not something I want to deal with every day. Plus, in elementary, I get the chance to teach everything. I love biology, but I am passionate about reading and writing too. I hated math when I was in elementary school, so I love the opportunity to make math seem easier and more fun to kids who hate it!

Simply put, elementary's a better fit for me, but I still love science and this camp is a great way for me to get a chance to do things like gel electrophoresis and bacterial transformation. And I get to teach high school kids. The kids who aren't turned off are a lot of fun to be around. You can joke with these kids, or be sarcastic, and they get it. I get to help introduce them to a university, and what it's like to be in college. They can challenge me on an intellectual level the way most of my 7 year olds can't. I get to watch hilariously obvious flirting when often, they are oblivious. Best of all, I don't have to deal with them asking to go to the nurse, needing help to tie their shoes, or having "accidents" in the middle of the day.

It's a nice change, but I miss some of the things about elementary kids, too- like their propensity to say the funniest, most random things. And then one of the high schoolers surprised me.

We were making macromolecule models and I mentioned that -ose at the end of a word means 'sugar' because glucose (like in blood sugar) and sucrose (table sugar) are two examples- as is deoxyribose, the sugar that helps to form the backbone of our DNA. One of the kids asked about -ase as a suffix. Generally, -ase means an enzyme. From there, we talked about what it means to be lactose-intolerant, and what that means about your body's lactase (the enzyme that processes the sugar lactose, which is most commonly found in milk).

Stay with me :) Almost there.

Now that we're talking about digestion, one of the kids, laughing because she's a little embarrassed to say it, asks me why her pee smells like tuna after she eats tuna. I wasn't sure, honestly, but I explained that since urine is waste, the way it ends up is affected by what you eat first. She counters, saying, "But when I eat hamburgers, my pee doesn't smell like hamburgers." The best I had was, whatever causes the 'tuna smell' must not be broken down through the digestion process, but the 'hamburger smell' must get broken down somehow- and that seemed to satisfy her.

But she has one more question. "How come when I drink a lot of water, my pee gets almost clear?"

And this one, I can answer. In fact, it's a perfect reinforcement of something we've learned. I respond that this is just like our dilutions of dye solutions. When you add more water, the color gets lighter and the solution gets more clear. She made an "ahhhhh," and I had to laugh. I did not go into the day expecting to answer random questions about things like tuna-smelling pee.

Maybe teaching high school kids isn't quite as different as I thought!

1 comment:

Sarah Garb said...

So whether it's mid-day accidents or a biology lesson, you're still dealing with pee no matter the age of the students!