At Kent, there are people from all over the world with amazing life experiences. Some of our students have endured real adversity in their young lives. Others have been born with significant social and economic advantages. All of them have unique combinations of interests and talents and experiences. I love teaching them and coaching them and living with them because it inevitably means I learn from them. You sort of can't help it.
In the classroom, the general give-and-take with the students can be really wonderful. For example, in my environmental science class, we look at different ecological problems around the world. At first, the solutions to some of those problems seem obvious, but as we get into it, you see things aren't so easy. Maybe there's a really important social tradition standing in the way, or maybe the best answer has significant economic repercussions. Quite often, societies have conflicting needs and interests. And that's when science becomes more than just what we know, but what we do with what we know.
Of course, sometimes the theoretical just becomes fun. For example, one of my classes did a soil analysis. We began by discussing all the things that affected soil health and then made predictions about what soil samples from various parts of campus would be like. Everything was exactly what we expected. There were different layers of soil just like the drawings in the textbook. One place had no worms and one, as we had forecast, did. But boy did it! The worms just kept coming up by the dozens. The kids were hooting and hollering and just so enthusiastic. Afterwards, their reports were terrific and the test scores blew me away.
I know the readings and classes help students learn the facts. But it's living it that really drives the lesson home. And that sort of sums up what I love about science, and learning, and Kent. We read a lot and discuss things thoroughly. But then we go out and get our hands dirty with the writhing, slithering, exciting stuff that sticks.