Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Why I Do This

Today, in my 6th grade science class, we were talking about ways humans hurt the environment. I had expected to cover six things, but ended up only covering two, because my students are AWESOME. We began by talking about garbage and landfills. What do you do with your trash? What happens to it after it’s thrown in the trashcan? I was keeping it pretty basic, as I have to since I teach the kids in English, and most of them speak it only very basically. But despite the language barrier I was soon being bombarded by a ton of absolutely wonderful questions about trash:

How long does trash last in a landfill? How long does metal last? How about wood? Plastic? Well, why does plastic last so long, and metal and wood don’t? What about when we burn trash? What happens then? What about the trash in the ocean? How long does that last?

Wow, amazing! The conversation we had was a mix of Thai and English (“Tenglish”), leaning towards the Thai side, with my co-teacher helping out a lot with that part.

When the questions seemed to be exhausted, we moved on to our next topic: air pollution. Again, I kept the language very basic, but the kids’ interests seemed to be insatiable. More awesome questions:

Why is driving bad? What comes out of cars? Why is CO2 so bad? What is ozone? Why are there holes in the ozone later? Where are the holes? If the hole is above Antarctica, why is it still so cold there?

Wow! More great questions! We spent the whole period in a wonderful Tenglish conversation about what humans do to hurt the environment, why those things are bad, and what we can do to make a difference. And what great questions!

This is one of my favorite things of teaching: exploring a subject that is relevant and interesting, and totally deviating from the lesson plan to make room for student interest and enthusiasm about learning. Ahh, what a wonderful feeling.

And as the lesson was wrapping up, one of my students nearly made me tear up. I was collecting the students’ papers so they wouldn’t lose them for the next class, and a student said, with a furrowed brow and a concerned but hopeful look on his face, “Miss Eliza, I want to save the Earth.” I melted.

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