Welcome To The Eco Chamber

, , , , , | Learning | May 28, 2021

I’m part of a panel of scientists giving a virtual guest lecture to a middle school. I’m talking about pollinators, and the class is pretty disengaged, but they get excited — and occasionally grossed out — when I pull out bat skeletons. After I explain the idea of coevolution, the teacher asks if anyone has questions and a number of hands light up on the screen. The teacher has introduced me as an ecologist and repeated that a few times.

Student #1: “Miss [My Name], is it called ecology because of the bats?”

Me: “No, ecology is a lot more than just bats! I used to study—”

Student #1: “So, what’s it called if they don’t echo?”

Me: “Oh… no, eco, not echo, like—”

Student #2: “Also whales and dolphins and sharks.”

Teacher: “[Student #1], you should call her—”

Student #3: “Sharks don’t echo. Except hammerheads.”

Me: “Yes— No, wait, no— It’s not… The prefix ‘eco’ means envir—”

Student #4: “’Eco’ means money like econom—”

The call goes silent; the teacher has used the “mute all” function.

Teacher: “Class, let’s ask our questions one by one. But [Student #1], you should call her Doctor [My Name], not Miss [My Name], because she’s a scientist and has a PhD.”

She unmutes the class and [Student #1] cuts back in.

Student #1: “—can’t be a very good doctor if all her bats are dead, though.”


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