Hard Sell

I've seen some posts recently on Facebook and Pinterest of the "cute," "amazing," and "fun" things being done in order to teach classroom and home school students about plant and animal cells.   The fact that I've just used three sets of apostrophes does not bode well for my opinions of these cell activities.

Here are a few well-intended examples:

Candies placed atop a gelatin "cell"

Poster board model

Pizza "cells"

and then there's the cake "cell"

When I was in seventh grade, we were given the assignment of making a model of a plant cell and an animal cell.   The normal completed project in our class consisted of poster board models.   The more elaborate ones were formed with play dough.   The teacher showed us best examples from past years of both poster board and play dough versions.   I was all set to make a stunning play dough one as I sat down at our kitchen bar.   Then, my dad walked in.   And asked what I was doing.   Then, came the lecture.   I HATED to hear the words, "Terri, go get me a piece of paper."   Because I knew I was getting ready to get a lecture complete with diagrams.   How that man loved to draw carbon chains.   And I still hate amino acids.

It was that seventh grade year that I learned to hide and do all science assignments in secrecy.   That lesson had not been learned yet, though, so I excitedly told him what I was doing.   He then started explaining and maybe ranting a little about how neither of those could be an accurate representation of plant or animal cells.   It was the only time he got involved in one of my school projects.    I was aggravated because I just wanted to play with play dough and my eyes were starting to glaze over from his lecture on plant and animal cells.   I was also embarrassed to take my final result to class the next week.   I was afraid the teacher might be insulted.   Plus, I just didn't want to take the darn things on the school bus!

It irritated my dad to no end to see that we were being taught to represent the cells as hard, stationary items.
 "They're more fluid than that!"
 "All those parts of a cell move around!"
 " What do you think your body would feel like if it were made up of cells like the poster board or the one made out of dried play dough?!"

After the lecture, Daddy directed me to find my materials.   I'd need two clear air-tight containers to represent the cells.   He told me the hard cases weren't exactly perfect, either, but we couldn't send me to school with zippered storage bags which would have been the closest representation on hand.   Then, I needed some type of clear ball we could fill with cooking oil.   I forget which one of us thought about those balls that hold prizes in gumball machines.  I remember using other things like those 80s black plastic bracelets cut into pieces and a red bouncy ball.    I filled the two containers (a rectangular one for the plant cell and a round one for the animal cell) with water.   Then, I filled the gumball machine spheres with booking oil and the items meant to represent parts within the nucleus.   The oil made the nucleus float within the cell model.   All the other parts were put into the water and I made a diagram to serve as a key for the parts of the cell.   So, within the necessary hard plastic, the cell "parts" were fluid and able to move around.  

I ended up getting an A+ 100.   The teacher said that of course, my dad was right.  I think I stood up and presented my project by beginning with, "My dad MADE me do this because he says..."    It was a very small town, so she already knew he was a Ph. D. and a university professor.    The teacher made me enter the school science fair.   I won 1st place and overall.   I went to the district fair where one of the judges, a biology professor felled me with one simple question, "If this model was done to scale, how long would the __________(I forget the part, now) actually be?"   Blank stare.

 Then, I held my hands about a foot apart and said, "About this long?"

 "It would wrap around this ballroom ______(I forget exactly what huge number to insert here) times."

When I told my dad, he just grinned, like "good one!" and told me I should have been prepared for that.   I was fascinated by scale and portraying it correctly in models after that, particularly in my classroom.

This is just one example of what it was like to live in my house.   Every evening, my dad got home from work while the news was still on.   We had a small television set in our kitchen and it stayed on as we ate.   We talked during the commercials.   I was allowed, even encouraged to give opinions about stories, but I had to be logical and prove them.   So, I either kept my mouth shut or I worked hard to form an argument that I could share at supper.   It's contributed to who I am today.   That can be good, but it can also be annoying and make life a little less enjoyable, I guess.

I'm cynical.  I'm a hard sell.   I like logic, even though I come at it from a liberal arts, not mathematical/scientific, vantage.   I'm not easily moved by emotion on an important issue.   I cry like a baby watching movies and documentaries, but I'm saying I'm not moved to believe by emotion when it comes to something like a political issue.   I watch political debates like I did when I used to judge high school debate tournaments.   I get excited over good moves made by either side and I love to see the results of good coaching and practice in evidence.   I'm not impressed by titles, degrees, or jobs.   He's got a doctorate in ______________.   She teaches at __________________.   He's written ______________.   Fine.   Let me meet him/her, speak to them, read them, watch them in action, and then I'll form my opinions.

It makes me meet my husband at the door with a copy of an article that has me frustrated even though I believe or agree with the author's opinion, but I just can't stand the simplistic or illogical way the author has presented it.   Okay, so I don't do that often.   I usually let him eat first.   One of the many things I love about being Catholic is the Church's scholasticism, history, and the logic of Catholicism.   The understanding of that logic is a gift, though, and not totally due to any intellectual capacity or capability I might dimly possess.  

It leaves me out of things, sometimes, but I'll be honest, I'm still going to raise my children to back up opinions with facts.   I'm still going to make sure they represent things as accurately as possible.   They're going to listen to adult conversation.   Like me, it will be above their level as they're younger and then they'll rise and grow to understanding it.    I try not to lecture though.

And I try to be kind when I tell them to "get me a piece of paper."


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