I’m not as young as I look. Or act. Or claim to be in chatrooms. The truth is, I’m actually going to attend my ten-year high school reunion this summer. As a tribute to the Ellensburg High School Class of ’96, I thought I would share a variety of high school experiences… starting with some memories from sophomore year Biology…
In a row we sat, The Captive Lion, Solo, and myself. Lecturing in front of us, a dispassionate biology teacher. I think you can imagine how the year went.
Keep in mind, we weren’t the type to throw spitballs. No, our form of rebellion was uninvited commentary throughout each lesson. Our teacher soon learned that he couldn’t just start a video and leave the room without some sarcastic praise of his teaching ability. And we made sure that homework wasn’t assigned, it was negotiated. Thankfully, our teacher really had no objection to his authority being undermined. As you can imagine, all of this made for a very memorable year…
Before there was Fear Factor, there was biology class.
First off, where do they find the grasshoppers for biology class dissection? These things were the size of a Thanksgiving turkey, smothered in formaldehyde gravy. Seriously, is there a real-life Land of the Lost that I’m not aware of?
Anyway, it was the Class of ’96 that proudly created the need to warn future classes about the dangers of eating your dissection project. We actually had a classmate bite the head off of a gigantic grasshopper as part of a bet. In his defense, grasshoppers are an excellent source of protein.
There’s not much to this story, other than the fact that we had an actual fetus, in a Mason jar, stored in a display case in the back of the classroom. He was our unofficial mascot.
As you might expect, extra-credit was very hard to come by, as that would generate more work for our teacher to grade. However, if you made a profound advancement in the field of science, he was usually willing to throw a few extra points your way.
Here are two actual suggestions he seriously pitched to us in class, neither of which were actually attempted by anyone:
Train your cat to pull a small wagon. In the beginning, it will border on animal cruelty. Over time though, your cat will theoretically learn to use that wagon to accomplish a variety of amazing tasks. Or, more likely, your cat will suffer a horrible wagon-related death.
Here’s another: Build a miniature microscope from items around the house. That’s right, he wanted unmotivated high school sophomores to build a homemade microscope. He stood before us, telling us how easily this could be done. First, you melt some glass. Then, you shape it into a perfect hyperbola. Or maybe it was a perfect parabola. Either way, there were 8,000 additional steps that followed. As you might have guessed, things that the Professor did in an episode of Gilligan’s Island were the inspiration for most of our extra-credit assignments.
The Biology Field Trip Death March:
First, I’ll answer the obvious question on your mind: No, the fetus didn’t get to come along on the field trip.
Everyone else got in a bus, and drove two hours into the Channeled Scablands. That’s right, The Scablands. Not only is “Scablands” the geographically correct term, but it also perfectly conveys the godforsaken nature of this Eastern Washington desert.
Have you ever noticed that while Disneyland has a Tomorrow Land, a Fantasy Land, and an Adventure Land it does not have an amusement area called Scabland? As such, you are correct to infer that the Scablands is not the happiest place on earth.
But yet, here we were, on a field trip to observe nature in its natural state. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to learn about ecosystems in the most uninhabitable place on earth. In the entire day, I think we saw one breed of plant: tumbleweed, and one breed of animal: rattlesnake.
Scratch that. We also saw vultures… lots and lots of vultures. They spent most of the afternoon circling above us as we trekked through the Scablands for seven hours on a sweltering day. Other than that, it was pretty uneventful. Oh, wait, I saw my ancestors too. That actually might have been a hallucination though. Somewhere along the way, the outing kind of morphed from a simple field trip into a vision quest.
The Insect Collection:
We were assigned to collect a diverse sample of insects. I got an “A” on my project, which was actually very difficult to do. Normally, you pretty much needed to go on an African safari and return with trophy-sized insects to ace it.
For the most part, my collection was unspectacular. I had a modest collection of bees, houseflies, ants, moths, and ladybugs. Basically, I pinned anything that could be picked off the front of your grill or windowsill onto a piece of cardboard and turned it in.
So how did I pull off such a high grade? I found a spider with the legspan of a CD on my parents’ porch. Naturally, I pinned it to the center of my collection. Of course, spiders technically aren’t insects, they’re arachnids. Apparently it was close enough, as my grade reflects. I sometimes wonder if I would have gotten a similar grade had I pinned a hummingbird or salamander to the center of my insect collection instead.
The Final Exam:
Most teachers don’t look at the final exam as a mere formality. Of course, I use the term “teacher” loosely, as ours was really more of a projectionist anyway. Fittingly, our final exam was thrown together from a sample of questions and multiple-choice answers that were written by students. Needless to say, it takes a really apathetic teacher to give a Final Exam in this manner. And as expected, the test was a total debacle. For instance, here’s one classic example:
Our galaxy is:
A. The Milky Way
D. B and C.
For the record, this question was proudly submitted by Solo.
Bonus Story: (Epilogue)
This same biology teacher happens to moonlight as a photographer. Last summer, we ran into him taking pictures at a friend’s wedding. He went to extraordinary lengths to insure that the Captive Lion and I were not included in any shot at the wedding. Of course, we picked up on this early on, and naturally we went to our own extraordinary lengths to get into every wedding shot possible.
Ultimately, we won. The Captive Lion’s elbow can clearly be seen in a shot of the couple going through the buffet line.