Education Corner 29

Our beginning teacher Navarro Navarro began teaching just at the end of Trust Territory Times and found there was really no Micronesian History textbook for his 5th graders. His class had only U S history texts. We saw that Navarro told his 5th graders to cross out “Columbus discovers America” and replace it in ink with “One of the first Europeans to come to the New World”. Because writing in ink in textbooks was against the school rules our critical thinking questions centered around—should Navarro have done this? Most case study readers agree that saying Columbus was the discoverer of the “Americas” is really not too appropriate. We noted that we would never say something like Magellan discovered Guam. So when students or teachers say No--Navarro should not have had students change the text in ink---there is always a No... But! A Yes or No that must be explained is the critical thinking part of the case study. In this instance usually education students want the change but somehow they feel Navarro should have gone to the Mt. St. Mary’s Principal and received permission.

We ended last E C saying that Navarro was pretty good with what he was to teach (the curriculum) but was now concerned with how to make the subjects interesting (methods and strategies). Continuing the Navarro Case Study Mr. Davis, an American, and Navarro’s 6th grade science teacher, always made science interesting with his curiosity blanket. Mr. Davis always had something hidden beneath an old green blanket before science class. When students paid attention to the lesson it was possible to guess the hidden object. He recalled a hidden kitten when the lesson was mammals and a long snake-lizard for the reptile lesson. Once for the health lesson on junk food he had hidden two packages of cookies. When the students guessed correctly the whole class ate the cookies. He recalled Mr. Davis’s favorite expression about moderation. “Nothing wrong with cookies—in moderation,” Mr. Davis had said. Besides his curiosity blanket, Mr. Davis made things interesting with experiments. Sixthgraders were always doing experiments ... proving things right and proving things wrong. He remembered too that every 6th grader had to enter the school science fair. His own project “Monsters” had won a blue ribbon (1st prize) at the school fair and a red ribbon at the county fair.

Mr. Davis had shown Navarro about planarian worms. Students could barely make out these little creatures with the naked eye. But under a microscope you could split the head and grow two heads and split the two heads and grow four. You could do the same with the tails. Navarro remembered his favorite monster worm. It had four heads and four tails. Mr. Davis had made him add the word regeneration to his project title so it read “Monsters—Experimenting with Regeneration.” The entire 6th grade thought it was the coolest of the cool and everyone thought it deserved a first or blue ribbon at the county science fair. Navarro had always thought that the first prize had been wasted on some plants that grew at different rates using different fertilizers. It was titled “Plants— Growth Rate Using Different Fertilizers.” The science fair was always about the scientific method and the Blue Ribbon Girl had her dependent and independent variables and variables must have impressed the judges. But even 10 years later the young teacher still believed his monsters were better than plants growing in chicken or cow waste. And there again he had received a red ribbon and perhaps was another reason why he associated the color red with something bad. And even though he did not get the first prize, Navarro knew he would show his students planarian worms before he fooled around with plant growing. He had to do both plants and animals in 5th grade science so perhaps he would have his 5th graders do both experiments. And while he did not know if there was still a county science fair, he would organize a Mt. St. Mary’s science fair and be sure all of his 5th (and also 8th) graders entered. He would make this part of the science grade although he was not sure about grades and grading. Navarro worried a little on this. “How does one grade a science experiment?” he thought to himself? Navarro thought about holidays and then once again about Micronesian History. His American teachers always had special lessons and often with treats on days like Thanksgiving, George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays.

Students dressed up and did things like plays about the holiday. These were American holidays and perhaps would no longer be celebrated. He smiled as he thought about the 4th of July. Independence Day will have to be celebrated on a different day once independence came. Navarro was sure that Liberation Day would remain. After all, that was truly a Micronesian event although the day varied from island to island depending on when the Japanese actually gave up by disarming and leaving each particular island in September of 1945. But whatever holidays that came up Navarro would do a good lesson. After all, if the date was important enough for a day off, the day deserved a special lesson and he could have some treats even if he had to buy the treats himself. Finally what Navarro realized was the idea of student involvement or students being part of the lessons. As a student Navarro liked lessons where he was doing something—hands on. He saw that discovering why something occurred or why something was true was important. Questions as why it rains so much in Kolonia was important. That was far more useful learning than a student knowing the average rainfall in Kolonia was about 180 inches per year. He knew that observing cells in a microscope and learning how and why cells work was both important and interesting. This was far more important than memorizing the definition of a cell—the cell is the smallest whole part of a living thing. It was not too difficult for Navarro to memorize a definition or pick out the correct answer on a multiple choice test.

For many of his classmates it was difficult and they received low grades in science and history. It was difficult and boring and many just said—“I am just not good at science” or “I am just not good at history” and finally “I don’t like science and history because they are so boring. Our critical thinking questions begin with: Do you think students learn better when they are actively involved in activities as science fairs? And of course- Why? More on this in the next E C. Best wishes for a Happy Holiday season to all-womackandassociates765@gmail. com