This morning on my ride to work I came across a rotting groundhog carcass, the smell made me laugh so hard I had to stop riding for a minute. I know dead animals are normally not very funny to a grown adult, but to adolescent males it is one of the great “curiosities” of childhood. The smell not only reminded me of my own childhood, but also of the children in my neighborhood, especially Brandon.
Recently I was enjoying a little bit of a Sunday morning sleep when I was awoken by a bunch of knocks, I went to the window to find Brandon jumping up and down on my lawn with a huge grin on his face. I answered the door to find Brandon sitting in a chair staring at me, as cool and calmly as he could be asked me if I wanted to go “see a dead animal”. I wish I could say this has only happened once, but it hasn’t… it’s probably my fault as I almost always go with him. Curiosity can get the best of even adults, and if I don’t go, who will answer his questions?
These “experiments in biology” as I am going to rationalize it as right now, usually require a relatively short walk to one of the abandoned house yards. Except for the occasional rat, we are usually experimenting on groundhogs, Brandon keeps a special “poking stick” on the side of his house for just such occasions. I should mention that while this is absolutely gross, this is something he is going to do no matter what I tell him, at least with me around, he isn’t touching anything.
I have a feeling people are going to think this is wrong so I want to give an idea of why I do this, I want to support his interests no matter how “gross” they may seem. Sure it looks like a few dudes sitting around poking a dead animal, but in the process I am able to teach the kid a whole lot about animals, nature, spirituality and life in general. Kids are usually curious and want to share the things they see and learn, the worst thing we can do is stifle whatever method of learning works for them. As far as I am concerned dead animals could be the thing that turns Brandon on to a life of science, or even medicine in one form or another.
I would say in Brandon’s case (as with mine) standardized education is absolutely going to fail him, he does not learn from a book, he learns from experiences and most importantly mistakes. Standardized education only allows for so many mistakes before it labels a student as a failure, some of us need a few more mistakes than others in order to learn.
Everything I needed to know in life, I learned while poking a dead animal with a stick ~ Chris
Amir Criswell, Brandon Scott and Sam Criswell working the Farm Stand in front of one of ten abandoned houses on my street… This is what happens when the kids from my neighborhood ask me for “candy-money” every day, they planted, cared, harvested and ultimately sold the plants they grew… Success!
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