The Reluctant Scientist

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The Reluctant Scientist

So I have to ask myself, how it came to pass that a woman who has little interest

in science (never, in fact, dissected so much as a single frog in high school), who

never wanted to teach children any older than second graders, and who most

importantly, loathes, and I mean that with a capital L, Loathesrodents of all

sorts, came to be in a science classroom full of fourth grade students, picking

rats’ bones out of hairballs? Well, it wasn’t easy, let me tell you.

It all began innocently enough about two years ago, when my younger

daughter, now ten, came home full of bubbling enthusiasm for her classes’

latest science project. “We’re doing owl pellets, Mom,” she informed me. “We

get to find the bones and take them out and figure out what they are! Today

we found a vole’s skull!” Having no idea what she was talking about, I said what

all good moms do in order to demonstrate I was properly interested, “That’s nice

dear,” and promptly forgot about what she had said as I turned my attention to

something that I did understand.

Owl pellets only returned to the forefront of my thinking several days later, when

I visited my daughter’s classroom to fulfill my ongoing volunteer commitment to

the school. The students were in the middle of science when I arrived, and

spread out on their desks were an assortment of scales, rulers, tweezers, charts,

tiny bones, and suspicious looking piles of gray fluff. Caitlin sprang from her desk

and ran towards me. “Mom! Come see what Kimhee and I have!” Pulling me by

the arm, she brought me over to her and her partner’s table, where they had

the same odd assortment of items. It appeared as if the were reassembling

some of the bones into a rather dubious looking skeleton.

Wrinkling my nose, I asked, “What isthat?”

“It’s the skeleton of a vole, Mommy. I told you all about it at home,” Caitlin

replied, somewhat accusingly. Kimhee reached into the stack of papers on the

table and extracted a detailed diagram of what appeared to be a rodent

skeleton and offered it to me. “We got the bones from our owl pellet, and now

we’re putting them back together,” Caitlin continued. “See, here’s the skull. We

had another one, but we don’t have enough of the rest of the bones to make

two skeletons.”

“What exactly is an owl pellet?” I inquired hesitantly, not at all sure that I wanted

to know the answer.

Once again, my daughter looked at me impatiently.

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