Joyful Discovery in Biology

Why I Hung a Photo of Shark Guts on My Wall: Joyful Discovery in Biology
Christina Keddie

As I was redecorating the admissions office over the summer, I had the pleasure of going through the archives of photos taken around Wilberforce: happy candids of Lower School students playing during recess, close-ups of our students engaged in lively discussions in class, action shots of our athletes at games and meets, all beautifully demonstrating the life and culture of our school.

But one photo in particular kept catching my eye, and has ended up with pride of place directly over my desk. In it, a group of high school students are eagerly gathered around a biology table, watching with excitement as two of their classmates dissect a shark. Each pair of students had their own dissection station, but several groups had come together around this one in anticipation and disbelief, as they discovered that this particular shark was pregnant. The students' faces clearly show such excitement at this process of exploration, and every time I see this photo, I can't help but marvel -- what an incredible moment of joyful discovery at work!

The students gathered in Dr. Steen's biology class that day learned much about the anatomy of a shark, and about the technical process of dissection and examination. They were also entrusted with taking ownership of the process, making their own observations and learning that they were indeed capable of directing such a process at their own stations. And as they dissected their own sharks and made their own observations, they encountered the joy of discovery once again. To this day, when I ask students to share their favorite science class memories, these kids' eyes light up as they describe, in great detail, how they dissected their own sharks and experienced firsthand the thrill of biological examination and discovery.

At Wilberforce, such moments of joyful discovery happen on a regular basis. My own children are currently in pre-K and first grade here, and it's beautiful to behold their childlike joy and curiosity each day. It's refreshing, though, to see that our middle and upper school students are not jaded or cynical about their studies -- they, too, find joy and excitement each day. The photo on my wall reminds me of our commitment to joyful discovery at all stages of life, and I pray that we will continue to equip students with a lifelong love of learning, enabling them to approach God's call in their lives with wonder and joy.