I was an Elementary Education major in college, and I'll be the first to tell you, it doesn't get much easier than that, folks. Math for Elementary Teachers. Art for Elementary Teachers. Music for Elementary Teachers (see the trend here?).
Then there was Biology for Elementary Teachers.
I took the class spring semester of my freshman year. We had a lecture three days a week (and I honestly cannot tell you one single, solitary thing about that), plus a three hour lab one day a week, taught by a graduate student.
My lab was on Monday afternoons, and it was filled with the super-geeky type of Elementary Education majors, the ones who sit in the front row and try to impress the professor and remind him he forgot to give the homework assignment. I chose a seat in the back of the room, at the end of a lab table, thinking this was going to be one long semester, when a girl came in the door, glanced around the room at all the goody-two-shoes sitting in there, and sat on the stool across from me. Her name was Liz, and we became instant friends.
The class was a complete waste of time. I guess the Biology department didn't think we lowly Elementary Ed majors were worth the cost of dissecting anything (which, honestly, I was okay with), so the graduate assistant just showed us a fetal pig that had been dissected by a "real" class.
We did do one minor experiment. We had some chemical concoction in a test tube and were instructed to heat it over a Bunson burner. I was holding the test tube in the flame with a pair of tongs as Liz read the directions. She was just getting to the part that said, "Continually move the test tube from side to side and never hold it still while in the flame," when the liquid inside shot up out of the tube. Probably should have read the part about continually moving it sooner.... The only other thing we did that was like a "real" Biology class involved mice. Oh, the mice!
We were given a glass cage with two white mice in it, a boy mouse and a girl mouse, and we were to observe them over the semester. Each set of lab partners was assigned a week of mouse duty (that is, cleaning out the cage, feeding and watering them). Mice being mice, our girl mouse was soon in the family way, and each week, we watched her get bigger and bigger. And soon enough, she had a litter of eight naked babies.
The lab partners who had the luck of drawing birthing week as their week to care for the mouse family made off easy. The babies were too small to move, so no cage cleaning; they only had to make sure they had plenty of food and water and that was that.
The week following that was our week. Liz and I went into the lab to care for our little family, only to find out the baby daddy had eaten one of the babies (MOST of one of the babies, anyway). We removed him and put him in a separate cage. We removed mom and her bundles of joy, each covered with downy white now, their eyes still closed, weighed them (because we were trying to score a few brownie points with the graduate assistant after the whole test tube debacle), cleaned out the cage, filled it with fresh bedding, filled their food dish, and filled their ginormous water bottle. We nestled mama and babies back into the cage and were clipping the water bottle into place when the plug fell out and the water began gushing out of the bottle, filling the glass cage with an inch or so of water.
Frantically, we started scooping babies out of the water, dropping them into a box. Next, we fished mom out, putting her in the box with her children. With paper towels, we tried to dry them all off, but it was hardly efficient. We emptied the watery cedar chip bedding from their cage, dried it thoroughly, refilled it with fresh litter, gave them new food, refilled the ginormous water bottle, making sure THIS time that the cork was firmly in place, and returned the mouse mama and babies to their cage. Again. And we left.
At our next lab class, the graduate assistant remarked that there was something wrong with our mice; two of the babies had died, and none of them looked particularly right. Their fur was a little scrappy, and it had yellowed a bit. Liz and I looked at each other, saying nothing. In the next week, two more babies died. The remaining babies survived, but not long after they were weaned, the mom went to mousy heaven, too. The babies grew into adult mice (they do that FAST), but they were yellowed, their fur scraggly.
The graduate assistant was befuddled by this.
And Liz and I, feeling like horrible, horrible mouse killers when we were just trying to do the right thing, never let out a squeak about what happened.
This week, after a long sabbatical, I am participating in Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop with the prompt:
"Whose fault was it?"