On the road…again!
Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Inductive Reasoning and Third-Grade Science Class
The dream came first, the details came later, and the story came last. In a very pleasant dream last night, there we were, sitting on heavy wooden construction ties in the middle of a small clearing, on the side of a small mountain, along a well-beaten trail in a forest in Western Pennsylvania. The young kids who numbered 6-8 were with the Footloose Forester in search of the tiny Drosophila melanogaster, a minor but rare species of fruit fly.
The not really rare fruit fly
There were reports in recent years that the 2-3 mm fruit fly was actually extinct, but our gang of third-grade students was hoping to prove the experts wrong. In the dream, the Footloose Forester was the only adult, probably their 3rd Grade teacher. As it transpired, we only saw one fruit fly that day as it alighted into our midst while we took a break to sit on those logs in the clearing. That site was clearly a favorite place for someone in the past who took the trouble to haul construction ties up the mountain and into the level clearing along that trail. That person or persons had arranged them in a circle around the center of the clearing, another hint that perhaps an occasional campfire was part of the plan. Campfires and storytelling, by people young enough in spirit to want to go into the woods to sit by a campfire and tell stories in the flickering light of a campfire.
If any one of those kids went home and told their parents that they had seen a Drosophila that day, they may not have been believed. After all, who takes the word of a 9-year-old kid who claims that he/she actually saw a rare Drosophila? Their parents hadn’t seen one in decades, and of course neither had the experts. So why should the Dons in the halls of science fritter away their time and talents by chasing an elusive insect, especially when there was no direct evidence that the species still existed? The Footloose Forester in his dream decided that his gang of 3rd-grade students was going to gather that evidence—on their own, and using the scientific principles that would make a convincing case. First, they had to come up with a plan, sketch out that plan, share it with their willing collaborators, and put that plan in place. That is to say, work that plan with the other students in their 3rd-grade science class. But what if nobody had any ideas about what it takes to make a study plan? Should they ask their teacher for suggestions? Should they go with the ideas of a couple of brainy kids who had voiced the only suggestions? Or should they make it into a class project and continue with the full participation of everyone?
As it turned out in the dream, the Footloose Forester as their presumptive teacher in that scenario, had already devised a lesson plan that might come up with original research, as conducted by his 3rd-grade science students. Pshaw! What school teaches science in the 3rd Grade? Maybe more than we know. Take the example of the elementary schools in Namibia, whose curriculum infuses science into each and every area of study, thanks to the foresight of Dr. Mary Seely, an American educator who took Namibian citizenship as proof that she was committed to following her beliefs about how science should be taught in elementary schools.
As a teacher, the Footloose Forester announced the lesson plan early in the spring and chided the students that it was they, as a group, who would develop and execute the logical principles to establish a framework for action, set down some guidelines for inclusion and participation by all the students; and establish minimum standards of notetaking and reporting. If things worked out, their study would demonstrate a working hypothesis, have verifiable parameters, and a conceptual map of the essential elements of legitimacy.
Moving ahead in the thought process and within the dream itself, it was clear that inductive reasoning took into account environmental considerations such as habitat, seasonality, site factors, time and temperature regimes, and methods of documenting the findings. To dispel the notion that the single observation of a solitary fruit fly was a happenstance one-off event, the study plan also proposed using at least 10 other similar sites, in similar habitats; to establish a modicum of statistical significance. It was unclear at that point if such similar sites existed, but an attempt would be made to find and include them in the plan. The evidence base would consist of recorded sightings, by date and location and using photographs (if available) to develop a database over time. Of course, digital coordinates emanating from a GPS device would facilitate future field trips by others who wanted to discover on their own. In the future, all field reports should include geospatial information.
The dream about a humble fruit fly alighting on a button of his jacket might be noteworthy if one considers that the Footloose Forester remembers having various species of ticks crawling onto and into his clothing in several places around the world. They were small, they were different, but they were potentially harmful in several ways. Maybe they were important enough to mention in a story around a crackling campfire, in the presence of young inquisitive minds of your 3rd Grade students who need science in their lives and thought processes.
For good, or laziness in attitudes or approaches, modern computer search techniques (by Bing) offer the following AI (for Artificial Intelligence) finding on our lowly fruit fly:
The common fruit fly is a fascinating creature that has been widely used for scientific research. Its scientific name is Drosophila melanogaster, which means "black-bellied dew lover" in Greek. This name reflects its appearance and preference for moist habitats. The common fruit fly is small, about 3 mm long, with red eyes and a yellowish-brown body. It can be found almost anywhere there is rotting or fermenting fruit, such as in kitchens, gardens, orchards, and vineyards.