Do ecologists think kiwi birds need deodorant and odor-eaters?
That's a question I posed to my freshmen last week, as part of my Fact or Fiction bellringer to set the stage for our reading and discussion of Science World magazine. They are much more invested in the lesson if they think they are competing against other sections for bragging rights on the Fact or Fiction quiz. It is composed of 7 questions that I make up from the main articles I want to use. I put the question on the screen, and the class reaches a consensus. The record so far is 5/7 correct.
First of all, they wanted to know what a kiwi looks like. Can it fly? Where does it live? Does it stink? Who cares? Is it around people? Some of these questions I answer, or defer to a student who knows the answer. I put a picture on the projector. For some questions, I tell them that we'll have to read the article.
They are growing wise to my tricks. At the moment, they are a bit upset about the world record 10,000 lb. chocolate bar. You see, my question proposed a 1000 lb. record chocolate bar. They fell for it. Now they are wary about specific numbers. As they should be. And about all, or none, or never, or always. It's a good way to increase the odds of right answers on True-False tests.
Here's a kiwi. It's the national bird of New Zealand.
In answer to my question, an ecologist has proposed deodorant and odor-eaters for kiwi. Not because they stink and people don't want to smell them, but because predators hunt them and eat them. They have a wax used for preening that emits a strong, mushroom-like odor. It was not a problem in the past, because kiwis had no natural mammal predators. Since people have brought in pet cats, the odor is killing the kiwi.
For the record, all classes got this question wrong. They thought it was folly to foist deodorant upon a fowl. But my issue is not with my freshmen. They play along, and occasionally learn something.
No, my issue is with another class. A class that saw the Fact or Fiction shorthand on the board, and asked what "kiwi deodorant" meant. Being a knowledge-giver, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom interrupted their lesson on Cellular Processes, and gave a one-minute synopsis of the kiwi deodorant conundrum. Because to devote any more time to it would be akin to stealing knowledge from out their soon-to-be-end-of-course-tested brains. "An ecologist has proposed making deodorant for kiwi birds because the pet cats people introduced into New Zealand are hunting them and eating them. The deodorant will mask the smell so predators can't track them." Mrs. Hillbilly Mom then went on explaining the difference between passive transport and active transport.
But one young lass raised her hand. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom should have known better. Really. She should. Her best bet would have been to say, "Hold that thought, and ask me after I hand out the papers." But no. Thinking it might be a learning experience for all on a fine point of passive transport, Mrs. HM called on the young lady.
"Did you say that cats are humping the kiwis?"
And that, my friends, is why Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's sunny outlook has been clouded a bit in regard to this year's upcoming EOC test results.