I was an 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science teacher for quite a few years and according to at least one parent an agent of Satan. I believed and still do that science rooms should not be sterile places of lecture and demonstration but full of imagination, creepies, real experiences, and all kinds of living things. Unhappily for science rooms like mine , our litigious society is proceeding towards a state of absolutely safe educational scientific inanity where any risk is forbidden and hand sanitizer is more important than real hands on learning. This is compounded by the continually expanding rules about allergies, salmonella, bird flu, sanitation etc. overlain in many cases by unreasonable fears of any chemical that might be reactive or dangerous in any way. This has resulted in our elementary and middle school science rooms becoming more and more physically and intellectually sterile.
My memories of science rooms from my youth include odors, dead wasp nests, ratty stuffed animals, guppies and hamsters being born and a pervasive sense of completely natural disorder. Now when the only animal you can have in your room is a fish and the strongest chemical you can use is lemon juice your meaningful teaching options decline significantly.
My room until I gave up science was a living breathing thing often times in need of a whole case of Certs or Listerine, and almost always in need of a good flossing but always alive. I had snakes, birds, toads, frogs, fish, insects, mice, rats, more snakes, turtles, tortoises and virtually anything else the cat might drag in or had drug in at home. Homes, where sly parents often suggested to their students that injured or too young animals needed to be brought to me for help and in most cases unfortunately either slow or fast euthanasia. There is not a science teacher alive who has not given the “leave baby animals” where you find them lesson. Usually delivered in late February of every year only to have virtually no one ever listen.
At times having a living room has gotten me into moments of trouble. One of my most memorable moments was when a middle school parent refused to have a conference in my room because it was full of satanic symbols (snakes) I dutifully held the conference in the hall but she still requested that her daughter be moved from my room for religious reasons.
Little did she know that her daughter like most of the girls in the room had been handling at least one of those satanic symbols on a daily basis for most of the semester.
I will admit that the parent’s reaction to my room might have in some ways been a little tainted by the left over Christmas wreath that the art teacher had spray painted black and decorated with skeletons. In a school with a large Hispanic population it only seem natural to hang it on my door in celebration of the Day of the Dead. Mom it seems did not agree.