Lessons on the Fly

My son had an accident this weekend, resulting in a bloody “Thumb Toe”.  The injured body part is more commonly referred to as your “Big Toe”.

Like any good 5 year old, he cried a lot, proclaimed that, “it’ll never stop bleeding” and “it’ll never get better”.  5 minutes later, “Can we go to the pool tomorrow”.  During the crying and drama, my wife and I tried to explain the properties of blood, specifically the concept of clotting, followed by the need to clean a wound.  This lead to a microbiology discussion, how prokaryotes (germs) are bad  and the cut just opened the door to let them into your “thumb toe”.  Next, we discussed chemical reactions; the H2O2 -> H2O + O2 reaction (I know it’s not balanced).  This involved introducing the catalyst concept, tying back in the previously discussed blood properties, specifically enzymes to explain why the hydrogen peroxide bubbles when it’s poured on the cut.  Which leads us back to the microbiology lesson and how many germs can’t live in an O2 rich environment created by the bubbling hydrogen peroxide. Whew!!

So what does my son remember from this only minutes later:

Hopefully he retained a little more than evident in the video.  This did get me thinking.  How many times a day/week/month do we do this?  Not console an injured child, but present a lesson on the fly.  I’d say this is far more impactful than anything scripted, but how do we keep from squandering the moment?  I’m not sure I have an easy answer, but I’m personally going to try to write and post as may as possible, hopefully most will not invole an injured 5 year old.
I hope that by collecting/recording these moments, I’ll be able to reflect on and revisit the concepts; improve the lesson, with media, labs, reading material, etc…


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  1. Kristine Rebstock said:


    That video was PRECIOUS! I agree with your hope that he retained more than was evident in the video; of course, that’s what we hope for with our students as well. My only thought on that is that it’s a seed they don’t yet know what to do with. The opportunity presented itself, the seed was planted, and now it may lay dormant…but it will find its through eventually! You’ll hear him repeat your words…and you’ll wonder how he remembered that from so long ago!
    I say this as the parent of a 5 year old…and a 15 year old who is just now started to see those seed creep through.

    Thanks for that perspective! It’s a really good thing to have it pop up like this every now and again. Do you think your son’s teachable moment was really a lesson on the fly for us as parents and/or educators too?

  2. Mary Kuterbach said:

    Mike- Sweet video! You are right though. How many times do we teach on the fly? Or more importantly how many times do those opportunities come and we zip past them thinking “I don’t have time for this we have other things to do”? Opportunity to teach. We cannot ignore those moments.

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