“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” – Alice Walker
As always, the Friday Edition combines a quote with a favorite photo. I tailor these to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme, which this week is “purple”.
Cornell. Harvard. MIT. Stanford. Notre Dame. Yale. These are the big leagues, and for a girl who graduated from a university in the California State system, they represent learning and education on a grand scale.
I love to visit colleges whenever I get the chance. The gorgeous campuses, the studious feel to the air, the students bustling around or laughing with each other, the buildings and the architecture… I love everything about them.
Of these mythic universities, so far I’ve visited the Harvard campus, where a friend-of-a-friend took us on a tour inside the legendary Harvard Lampoon “Castle”. I’ve also been lucky enough to attend a data workshop at MIT, which allowed me the geeky triple thrill of using the words “data”, “MIT”, and “I went to a workshop” all in the same sentence.
And now, I can add a new milestone: I’ve attended a science teachers’ workshop at Cornell.
Part of my three-day Cornell experience included dinner and a lecture by Dr. Eric Cole, a Professor of Biology at St. Olaf’s College. This dinner was held right inside the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The lecture by Dr. Cole was fantastic. He was inspiring to listen to. His earlier talk was about why teachers must focus on the positive when teaching science to kids–after all, how depressing is it to hear about global warming and environmental disaster, without anything positive to give one hope?
After our dinner at the Ornithology Lab, we wandered down the hall to a lecture room where he spoke about the overreliance by kids and teachers on trying to prove hypotheses.
Dr. Cole made a great case for the importance of simple observation. “There is an earlier stage [before hypotheses],” he said. “Observation and note taking, searching for patterns, and building descriptions.”
Photographers do this automatically. I’m sure many of us are known by our families and friends for stopping dead in the middle of something, suddenly wandering off, and contorting ourselves into weird positions to get a picture that nobody else noticed. The nice thing about this weekly photo challenge is we get a handy excuse to do it even more!
However, as a teacher, it’s unbelievably refreshing and delightful to be told that yes, observation is legitimate science. That is incredibly freeing, because observation is so often overlooked in the hustle of doing. A friend and fellow science teacher once waxed positively rhapsodic over the joy of simply watching ants. Oh, the things you can learn when you just watch!
I took the above picture while
looking at observing, at length, a fantastic case full of hummingbird specimens. The display is an antique collection of 98 hummingbirds, which was restored in the past year or so. The birds were almost all stunning, although there was one bird that looked a bit like it was chewed up by a cat before being wrestled away and mounted in the display. I took a few pictures, but the one hummingbird I liked the most was this purple one, specimen #36.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the legend showing which birds were which. I’m not even sure if this bird is endangered, or even still in existence. All I remember thinking about when I shot the picture was that my daughters wouldn’t believe the color.
I plan to take them to the Ornithology lab for a visit. Both my girls like birds, but my youngest really enjoys looking at them and listening to their calls, as well trying to call back. We’d like to go camping in New York State this summer, but whether it’s this year or next, I will definitely take my family to see Cornell, and the fabulous Ornithology Lab at Sapsucker Woods. It’s a wonderful place.