Field of Science

Observations on students on a tropical field trip

One of the more rewarding aspects of TPP's work is taking students on field trips, and none are better than rainforest ecology.  Here are some observations.
This year's class is very observant; they are noticing lots of things that most people would simply walk past.  Learning to observe is really important so this is quite pleasing. 
Typical of students from the Midwest, many of them are not adventurous about food and they approach new foods with suspicion.  They are really picking eaters.  And we're not talking about terrible stuff either. About 50% passed on the best fried plantains ever; the other half of the class finished them off so nothing was wasted.  Fish is avoided by a significant number of them; they don't like things that are "fishy" even when they don't taste "fishy".  On the other hand their reaction to the fresh fruit juices has been very different from previous classes.  Fresh fruit is blenderized, and large, heavy pulp is sieved out, and then diluted with cold water. In the past such juice was only palatable when rendered drinkable by several spoonfuls of sugar.  This year's crew are not such sugar freaks.
The students this year are showing some pretty good work ethics.  They have more energy than TPP, so you have to be good at providing direction.
Students have been good this year about wearing their boots, which deal with the water and mud, and the risk of snake bite.  They worry more about the snakes than the mud.  Smart. 
Spiders are a hot topic this year, orb-weavers, jumping spiders, wolf spiders, but they give one student the creeps.  What fun! 
It takes about two days here for the students to change, in their minds, from newbie tourists to jaded old rainforest veterans heaping scorn on other newbies.  No hazing is allowed. 
It takes several days for students from two different universities to begin to mix, to socialize, and then it's usually female-female or male-female interactions. 
Some of our students always look totally clean and even pressed, downright neat!  Others always seem to have been wallowing in the mud.  They all have nicer field attire than TPP whose field gear has seen many seasons.
For the undergrads, this is often their first time to attempt a research project, and some of them are finding that it's rather satisfying to figure out something real.  Yes, in a manner of speaking this course is proselytizing, trying to convert passive learners into active learners, and trying to recruit people who will develop a life-long love of learning and a passion for finding things out.  And it's working.  Yea!  This is why we do it. 

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