If you have never watched Creature Cast, you should. Creature Cast is fun, and fun is good. Seriously, if you haven’t noticed it, and you teach in the field of Biological sciences, you should notice it, if not for the content, then at least for a model of what an engaging blog and podcast series can look like.
Ever since ISTE 2010 this past summer, I have been thinking about ways to open up the walls of my classroom.
Prior to this, my ideas of opening up those doors were centered around integrating web 2.0 technologies into my classroom. For example, I developed online classroom networks, where my students interact and ultimately post their work for a potentially global audience.
However, this wasn’t really opening up doors in terms of global communication. Rather, these openings were of a pedagogical sense. Students were communicating better with each other, and creating new products in different ways, but their sharing was still very geographically limited.
So, an idea began growing in my brain to invite the members of Creature Cast to talk to our classroom, thinking I would be lucky if they even answered my e-mail, let alone said yes (such are the tribulations of hero worship).
To my surprise, Sophie Tintori, the producer of CreatureCast , answered my e-mail, and agreed to Skype into my classroom to speak with my students. She also added that Rebecca Helm, a grad student at Brown University and member of the Dunn lab, would be joining her.
So for one classroom period, my first hour Zoology students spoke with young, excited, female scientists who told them everything they had learned and explored with regard to Cnidarians (jellyfish, coral, sea anemones, etc), but even more importantly, everything they hadn’t learned, or wondered about. They incited the students to explore their own questions- even telling them that someday, they might have a chance to research the questions they were asking.
The ladies were fun. They weren’t stuffy and boring and wearing white labcoats – they talked about tasting jellyfish (spicy apparently), and being startled by beauty and the seemingly infinite nature of siphonophores in the ocean’s depths.
My students never seemed fazed by the fact that they were talking to graduate students who worked for one of the top Invertebrate Zoology labs in the country. Any time I research something about siphonophores (the animals above), Casey Dunn’s name is attached to that research. Even though I told my students this, this fact seemed much more important to me that it was to them.
What was important was that my students were able to see a tie between art and science. Science is so often perceived as a dry, linear, left-brained pursuit. This work is truly a confluence of creative minds and ways of understanding the world. They were able to connect to Rebecca, who told them she grew up with a background entirely similar to their own, and is now attending an ivy league school. And their viewpoint of a scientist was entirely altered – hopefully permanently. No more crazy mad scientist mixing wild chemicals and waiting for explosions; but rather, young girls excited about science, their work, and art.
It was an amazing experience, and we’re always looking for someone new and exciting to connect with. Any takers?
Note: This event was uStreamed, so I wasn’t certain how to edit out the first few minutes. I would start viewing it at 1:00.
Note #2: As a class, we also used Today’s Meet as a backchannel to the main conversation. This was an excellent organizational piece, because my students always had a questions ready, and they could record one whenever one popped into their heads, rather than having to wait.