…science lessons are sometimes the best things to happen to our students. Even though these may take us off of our lesson plan schedule (it’s a plan people, and sometimes they change…it’s okay), they are truly unscripted events that students can learn more from because they are the ones driving the interest. They are asking the questions, coming up with the answers and solutions, adjusting to unforeseen circumstances and bumps in the road. It’s real life experiences that truly prepare them for the real world, which is what we want for them and what they need.
My youngest son has recently come across one of these unexpected science lessons. Over a week ago, he was mowing the yard. As he made a pass next to a section he had mowed, he noticed the ground looked like it was moving. He looked closer and discovered a nest of baby rabbits in a shallow hole in the ground. He had mowed right over them, and they were completely unharmed! We were all truly amazed by that.
He was instantly obsessed with the nest of little ones, and he and my husband watched it for a couple of days, making sure nothing happened to them, and wanting to make sure the mother rabbit was still coming around for them. Momma rabbit didn’t seem to be coming around. We had done some spraying of weeds around the yard, and my son and husband were concerned this might have turned her away from the nest.
My husband allowed him to take them in and care for them. He helped him get them set up initially in our house, gave him a few basic instructions on how to care for them, and then we told him, “They are your responsibility. No we will not keep any of them. Once they are old enough, we will release them. Good luck.”
My youngest has not disappointed us or the baby rabbits. He has only asked for help on a few things (buying supplies and requesting that I wake him even earlier so he has time to take care of them before going to school). The rest he’s done on his own. He took it upon himself to do extensive research on how to care for them. We discussed and have decided already on a couple of safe areas to release them once they are old enough (despite his initial hints and outright requests at keeping one…he knows it’s for the best and wants them released in the best place possible for them to survive without him). My husband asked me the first couple of days we had them if I was helping him at all. My answer was, “Nope.” The only thing I’ve done is take him to the store to buy a few supplies. I haven’t even had to remind him to take care of them.
Yesterday, my son told me that he has really enjoyed this experience. He says he thinks it has made him care even more about animals, and even helped him to appreciate more the pets we do have in our household. He has impressed us very much with how responsible and caring he has been in this little unexpected science lesson. He took on an unexpected challenge, and has done very well. He’s adapted to little situations he hadn’t expected in taking care of the little ones. We are very proud of him, and he’s proud of himself as well.
The unexpected moments in a classroom can seem like an unnecessary interruption, but hold off on glossing over them, or ignoring them altogether. If it’s something your students seem to be interested in (even just a few of them), take a chance and see what can be discovered and learned. It can end up being the best investment of your time and, most importantly, your students’ time than you could have anticipated.