It was once my custom to take the entire Biology 12 class to the Bamfield Marine Station on the desolate west coast of Vancouver Island. The students to experienced first-hand the unspoiled, rugged coastline for which BC is famous. The opportunities to study marine life using the resources of biological station were fantastic and students left with memories of the area that were not soon forgotten. In an effort to lead by example, I was a major player in one such memory. Let me elaborate.
Octopus, Starfish and Molluscs, oh my!
The marine station uses a research vessel (the M.V.Alta) to gather and study the various plants and animals that live in the tidal ecosystem as well as gather oceanographic data used around the world. The class was thrilled to be traveling on the Alta to gather samples of the organisms that live on the ocean bottom.
Under the direction of the scientists that work at the station and the expert navigation of the salty, weather-beaten Norwegian captain, (Sig Johannsen…I’ll never forget him) we set off in windy seas. When we got about a kilometer off shore, the echo-locator showed that we were over a sandy bottom, likely full of life! I knew this was about to get very exciting!
We lowered a device called the “benthic dredge” to the bottom and dragged it along the sandy bottom, scooping up the sand and many of the organisms that it contained. This was gradually raised to a large platform on the deck and opened so that the contents of the dredge was deposited on the platform for our examination. It was a cornucopia of critters demonstrating in no small way the creativity of our Lord! There were crabs and clams, and myriads of fish. We saw an octopus and various brightly colored starfish plus gorgeous molluscs called nudibranchs and marine snails the size of tennis balls. So awesome!
Just let me finish my meal!
There was also a very interesting (and large) fish. This fish was ugly. It sort of looked like a mistake. It was explained that this allowed the fish to hide in the weeds and ambush other fish.
What caught the student’s attention was that this particular fish had been caught in the process of having its dinner. There was another, smaller fish protruding from its mouth! It was probably not too excited about this culinary disruption.
This is where I decided to lead by example. I gathered the students around to discuss the fish and, when one of the students asked what type of fish it was eating (it would have been much easier to simply ask one of the researchers) I placed my fingers into the fish’s mouth to pull out its meal! I got it out but when I did, the fish decided that if I was going to steal its meal, it would make do with this new offering. It clamped firmly on my hand.
In the name of pain
Have another look at the picture above…. At first, the students didn’t notice that I had discovered a whole new kind of serious pain (keep smiling, it’s all part of my plan!), but then I noticed that this was one determined fish. No amount of pulling would open its mouth and let me extract my now seriously bleeding hand. Pulling just hurt more.
Eventually captain Sig noticed my predicament. He asked how I managed to get into this situation and when I told him, he gave me a look that said, “I thought school teachers were supposed to be smart?” Clearly, I had shaken his faith in the education system.
He shook his head and grabbed the fish with both hands, forced its mouth open and allowed me to get my hand out. Kids were in awe. Girls were full of concern for my recovery and the boys thought this was awesome! They patched me up on the boat, but you can still see the marks on my hand.
I’ve done other unintended (stupid) things in class. I’ve sometimes demonstrated behaviours that I would not want the students to learn in how we should care for others or serve or show love. I know that the Lord blesses our efforts to train up students and that much of what we demonstrate sticks with them. I have evidence of this.
Never once have I heard of another student (you know it would be a boy…girls are too smart for this) being bitten by a fish by placing his hands in the fang-infested mouth. Lessons to live by!