Shiva the Destroyer

There is a student in my class whom I refer to as Shiva the Destroyer. 

  1. Because his name is close to Shiva, a revered but complicated Hindu god, and we live in India.
  2. Because he manages to destroy every class discussion on Facebook with his resourcefulness.

Though these reasons might appear to have negative connotations, the truth is he earned this nickname out of a sign of respect.  Though he is not the top student gradewise in class, I can truly say that his information fluency/literacy skills serve as a model for all students in my class.  He is the one student who I can count on to be over prepared for class on a consistent basis.  By over prepared, I mean full of "fun facts" beyond the scope of the content defined by the curriculum.  It is a given that in any discussion, he will interject at some point with a statement that he begins with, "Fun fact..."  I call it passion.

Today we were discussion  the reproduction of angiosperms.  Now I have to confess that botany is my least favorite subdiscipline of biology.  I can't even keep an ivy alive.  So here I find myself, the possessor of a black thumb, rushing to the finish line before IB exams, attempting to cram content into my students minds that will make them old school factual experts who will pass their exams with flying colors in May and soon forget everything they ever knew about plants.  Bad teacher moment # (I think I will leave that one blank). 

Enter Shiva the Destroyer. 

Me:  Here is a picture of a dicotyledonous flower and here is how reproduction occurs in these plants.  Lalala, wind, lalala, hummingbirds, lalala, bees...

Shiva:  Fun fact!  Did you know that there is a species of wasp that has a symbiotic relationship with figs.  The females don't have wings and they mate with the males in the immature fig fruit (which is actually a flower).  While they are reproducing, pollen is transferred to the female structures of the plant where the wingless female wasp resides (facts are a little jumbled...see below).

wasp on fig

Me:  Things just got interesting.  Could you post a link to that research on our Facebook group (that you discovered while independently researching obscure examples of pollination to prepare for our one hour class of information cramming)?  

He was a bit shaky on the details, but this article explains it all.  It is a harrowing tale of dismembered wasps and tragic death all in the name of sexual reproduction and survival of a species.  If nothing else, it will make you think twice before biting into a fig.  It is examples like these that breathe the life into learning and provide our students with vibrant imagery and curiosity that will lead the rest of them down the rabbit hole.  Is this what IB wants the kids to know about pollination?  No.  Is this what biology is all about?  Absolutely.  Is this the kind of pursuit we should be encouraging in our students?  That was a rhetorical question.

In my alternate reality, all students show up to each and every class filled with fun facts to share and discuss.  So how can we as teachers encourage even a fraction of this exploration outside of class?