Saturday, May 21, 2011

Learn outside the classroom

Dr Abe V Rotor

Climb to the top of the world - the lighthouse and enjoy the panoramic view. The lighthouse guides ships safely to their destination. Since olden times the lighthouse has been the favorite subject of legend and folklore, a landmark of heroes and adventure. Be Theseus after defeating the Minotaur. Be Jason who found the Golden Fleece. Find out where the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the ancient world, once stood. Can not compare this Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos, Ilocos Norte) with the fabled Lighthouse of Alexandria?

A family outing may turn out to be an educational one - especially for the little girl, who asks, "If the hill is a punso, where are the dwarfs? Is it true a fairy lives around?" Truth is, it's an termite mound, and a colony of several thousands of members headed by a queen lives inside the mound, mistakenly termed anthill. "Yes, a fairy lives around, too."

A choral group finds the garden more conducive to rehearse because there are no walls, floor and ceiling that distort music, its pitch, volume, melody, cadence, style, and the like. There are no electronic devices to rely on or resort to; natural music is still undisputedly the best sound of music.

On-the-spot drawing and painting, poetry writing, brings out latent talents, hones the imagination, bridges logic and creativity - all because you are with your subject. Both of you are one, interconnected, interdependent, which is why masterpieces were made on-the-spot. Remember Vincent Van Gogh's Wheatfield, Auguste Renoir, Nymphaea in the Pond, Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Look up! Explore from tree top to the blue sky. Freedom to choose subjects, to soar to space, to study the microcosm of a larger whole, or the minutae of the living world - these would take you to a travelogue much farther from the armchair. Here you go to where your specimen is naturally found, not vice versa. Use all your senses to study a subject. The more senses you use, the deeper and more lasting is the experience.

Follow nature's trail, or a zoo itinerary where you are caged and brought to the beast's natural habitat, and not the caged animal brought to your convenience. Each section is a chapter, if it were a book. Modern parks simulate real situations as they occur naturally. Kaohshiong National Park in Taiwan covers a whole landscape you wouldn't be able to cover in a day. We have our own Mt Makiling trail to the Hot Springs, the fumaroles of this dormant volcano shared by Laguna and Batangas provinces.

Pantomime - a lighter side of life, is played with simple tools such as a spotlight and a white linen. You are not dependent on technology. It's going back Shakespearean. It is only then that true talent is tapped and developed. Such films like Dead Poet Society, Mid-Summer Dream, bring back life on the stage and not on screen - what with all the camera tricks and studio generated effects. Simple films like The Hurt Locker won six Oscars, while Avatar, a lavish hightech film, a top grosser, won only minor awards. We are going back to real drama.

What has this tomato to do with all the attention it gets from these graduate students from UST? It is because of the secret of its red color, no tomato in the lowland could achieve. Simple observations could lead to complex research, such as carotene and xanthophyll, and the nutrient value of the tomato itself - in three aspects: genetic, environmental, and horticultural. There is nothing so simple and obvious it's not important to know. (Amadeo, Cavite)

Go to the sea. Be a snorkel or Scuba diver. Study and hobby are a good combination. Nature the best laboratory. But you have to endure its test, a hurt foot, a gulp of seawater, a scary undercurrent. Isn't learning an adventure, and adventure learning? There is a saying in The Hanging Tree, "To live truly, you must almost die." Of course, you don't have to go that far. (Class in Phycology, the study of seaweeds, UST Faculty of Pharmacy at Bacnotan, La Union)

Camp out. Be a boy scout. Leave behind the amenities of living. Can you live like Tom Hanks in Castaway? Only then you will realize how fragile is man without the institutions he built, the comforts of his technology, and the pampered companionship provided by his community. Learning is first and foremost, learning to live - alone. Hasn't man been challenged before? His banishment from Paradise. His survival in Noah's Arch. His rise after two world wars. Can he rise again if challenged by the threats he himself has created - nuclear Armageddon, global warming? Autotoxicity from his wastes?

Maybe what you need is respite from work, from cares and worries about the world. Here silence is gold, loafing is luxury, incubating knowledge in the process, and transforming it into wisdom. These could be the greatest contribution of getting out of the classroom and learning more - about life. (Class in biological science, UST Graduate School)

Living with Nature 3, AVR

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