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Connections: March 31 2014

March 31, 2014

Great Teachers, More Questions

Yes, I saw the blue-footed booby in the Galapagos. This bird, which really does have bright blue feet, is one of the most-recognized and most-named birds when talking about life in the islands. It’s name, “booby,” is from “bobo,” the Spanish word for clown, because it just makes you smile to look at it.  

I learned that there is also a red-footed booby, with, you guessed it, bright red feet.

There’s also a Nazca booby, with no distinctly colored feet, but with a beautiful yellow beak. I am not a birder, but I was in the company of many, and I learned a lot about these distinctive Galapagos birds. I learned that the red and blue feet are a function of the food the boobies eat, and that the brighter the color of the feet, the better, when seeking a mate. I learned that there are red-footed and Nazca boobies on the island named Genovesa, but there are no blue-footed boobies on that island. Blue-footed boobies, on the other hand, are found on Santa Cruz, but there are no red-footed boobies on that island. All of the boobies dive for fish, but the red-footed boobies search much farther out to sea than the others.  And red-footed boobies are the only one of the three to build nests in trees.  

We had excellent guides at every island landing, truly experts in their fields. They made the most of every teaching opportunity, and we were willing learners. And at the end of the week, I had learned much—about boobies, volcanic ash, lava flows, giant tortoises, frigate, sea lions, pelicans, crabs, marine iguanas, weather patterns and wet and dry seasons, lava lizards, and hairy weeds. And yet, so many more questions….

Back to the boobies: If a blue-footed booby would find itself on an island with only red-footed boobies, would its feet eventually change colors because of a different diet? Would there be a transitional “purple” foot between blue and red? Or would it die because of inadequate food for its nutritional needs, or no flock of other blue-footed boobies for social support? Are there no blue-footed boobies on Genovesa because it doesn’t have the right food for a blue-footed booby, or because the food has simply turned all the feet red? And if they all eat fish, are the fish in the waters that different from one island to the next? Or is there something else entirely that sorts birds by islands?   

And, the finches, those birds that Charles Darwin observed so carefully while he was in the Galapagos, that played such a significant role in his development of The Origin of the Species. We saw those birds; we visited the islands he visited. How did his mind move from the observations he made to the development of that seminal work?  

Really excellent teachers, who kept me engaged in a subject about which I knew nothing at the beginning of the week, and who left me with more questions, questions that engage me enough to still consider them, to read and research and keep learning. Those are indeed master teachers. And what I know is that we have teachers just like that on our faculty, teachers who raise more questions, and inspire more student learning. How fortunate our students are….

To Think About...

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”   - Albert Einstein

Marilyn Moore, EdD

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