Bookworm Camp Day 4!

Today was all about Karen Sandler’s Tankborn. I was really looking forward to today because there is so much to talk about in Tankborn! Class structure, genetic modification, the definition of human- lots of great conversations to be had!

We started the morning with a discussion of the book itself. The kids talked about their favorite characters, their feelings about the setting, questions they had, etc. It was a productive conversation and they were really enthusiastic. The discussion naturally moved towards the controversy surrounding bioengineering and genetic modification. Exactly as I expected.  This gave us the opportunity to watch Paul Root Wolpe’s TED talk: It’s Time to Question Bio-engineering. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must take 20 minutes to listen to Wolpe.  He is a bioethicist and his talk will blow your mind! The campers were fascinated by some of the animals and modifications that he shared.

After watching Wolpe’s talk and discussing some of the animals, the kids then designed their own genetically modified animals or plants.  After drawing them and coloring them in they presented them to the class and rationalized their place in the world.

The campers were really enthusiastic about bioethics so we too some time to debate a few scenarios presented in the NIH’s Bioethics curriculum guide. Some weird stuff has been designed by scientists!  Did you know there are Glofish? Originally developed to help scientists discover pollution in waterways, they are now sold in pet stores like Petsmart and Petco.  Their genes have been injected with bioluminescence from coral so the fish are neon colored and glow under black light!  We had never heard of Glofish and they caused quite a controversy in the room.  Some of my campers wanted to buy them immediately while the others were horrified at the very thought, for moral reasons.  It was a great debate!

Before lunch, we read another 30 pages of Rebecca Stead’s Liar & Spy, which the kids are loving. We took a few minutes to watch a SciFri video presentation about the parrots in Brooklyn, which we all learned a lot from.

After lunch we decided to do our afternoon reading outside. We read for about 40 minutes and it was wonderful!

Then it was time to go back inside and continue our discussion of Tankborn.  We watched a few author interview videos from Karen Sandler’s website and then studied the maps of Loka that are available there.  I also shared the short story that Karen Sandler has made available on her website.  This led to a great conversation about the meaning of the word human and we should define it.  I told them about the Declaration of Rights of Cetaceans and we researched the intelligence of whales and dolphins.  The idea of giving dolphins and whales “person rights” was very intriguing to my campers. We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing whether or not dolphins and whales deserve to have rights and to have those rights protected.

Tomorrow is our last day!  I’m sad to see the week end but I am looking forward to finishing  Liar & Spy and spending the day talking about Seurat, acting as spies, and reading!  Plus, I have books to give away tomorrow!

Dolphins, Poetry, and Madeline L’Engle

Picture from Asbury Park Press

some text

The big news in my area is that a pod of coastal dolphins has been spending their time in a local river and estuary. At first, officials were worried that they were offshore dolphins, which would present a problem because they don’t have a food source in the area. However, today it was confirmed that they are coastal dolphins and have been feasting on the abundance of bunker in the river! Now, officials are keeping an eye on them and hoping they make their way back to the ocean before the July 4th holiday, when the river will be crowded with boats.

They have been attracting quite a crowd and last night I headed down to try and see them. I did not spot them, but today my mother and sister were lucky enough to spend some time down by the river. They counted 8 dolphins, including a few young ones, and even saw them leaping from the water! I am extremely jealous, needless to say.

Dolphins have always been my favorite animals. Their intelligence, love, and compassion can be seen when they interact with each other in the wild. Because of my affinity for dolphins, Madeline L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light has always been a particular favorite of mine. To borrow from Amazon’s summary, “Vicky Austin is filled with strong feelings as she stands near Commander Rodney’s grave while her grandfather, who himself is dying of cancer, recites the funeral service. Watching his condition deteriorate as the summer passes on beautiful Seven Bay Island is almost more than Vicky can bear. To complicate things, she finds herself the center of attention for three very different boys: Leo is an old friend wanting comfort and longing for romance; Zachary, whose attempted suicide inadvertently caused the Commander’s death, is attractive and sophisticated but desperately troubled; and Adam, her older brother’s friend, offers her a wonderful chance to assist in his experiments with dolphins but treats her as a young girl just when she’s ready to feel most grown-up. Called upon to be dependable, stable, and wise, Vicky is exhilarated but often overwhelmed. Forces of darkness and light, tragedy and joy, hover about her, and at times she doesn’t know which will prevail.” A Newbery Honor book in 1980, this is my favorite L’Engle novel.

While looking out into the river, I was reminded of the Henry Vaughan’s famous poem, “The World”, which plays a vital part in the story. A perfect addition to Poetry Friday, I decided to present the first stanza using Wordle.

Read the rest of the poem here.

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