We were digging in the dirt the other day when a student shrieked, “A SPIDER,” and then offered to kill it with a handy shovel. We do not encourage chasing down spiders or any other living creatures with a shovel. In fact, quite the opposite.
We talk at every opportunity about the value of spiders, worms and other members of the animal kingdom in our soil.
Still, we would hold the animated reaction to an innocent spider up as a strong sign that we are doing something right out there in the garden. For more than hand a pre-digested chunk of knowledge to students, or even build an opportunity for critical thinking, creating real human engagement should be a measure of success.
The student who shrieked at the sight of a spider most certainly was engaged. The student had his senses turned on. At least for a short while, he was way readier to learn than his counterparts who do nothing more than show up to class on time with a notebook and a writing implement. He’ll be way more interested — though maybe not on Day 1 — in all the good that spiders, worms and unseen bacteria do for our soil. He’ll benefit from his contact with nature. And in time he will help us engage others in a similar fashion.
Working in schools where many students academic performance is downright troubling, stimulating the senses — and not just sight and hearing, but also touch, taste and smell — really makes a difference.