Thank God it's Friday

31st January 2003 at 00:00
Monday "ASientate!" (Sit down!). It's one of the most frequently used words in any Spanish-speaking school. But in the Galapagos islands - Charles Darwin's living laboratory - it's difficult to keep students in their seats when a barn owl flies into class and perches in the rafters. At Tomas de Berlanga school, nature crawls into most lessons.

Tuesday Classes in ICT are removed from the weekly schedule. There is no ICTteacher. The pupils are instead equipped with skills in agronomia (farming). The school has its own farm and the pupils grow fruit and vegetables.

Wednesday An unexpected visitor causes panic at the bar (Spanish equivalent of the tuck shop). It's recess for kindergarten when the dreaded Scolopendra galapagensis, a centipede that can kill small birds and leave human victims with temporary paralysis, drops from the rafters. The small black arthropod is scared off by the cacophony of hysterical screams.

Thursday News spreads about the centipede and a sixth-grader asks why it was not stomped on. An explanation that Darwin's theory of natural selection does not mean stomping on creatures is met with vacant stares.

Friday Discipline, or lack of it, is raised by the director at a staff meeting. He refers to a pepino guerra (cucumber war) that greeted a visitor from the Charles Darwin research station as students pelted each other with cucumbers.

Shelley Thomas teaches English at Unidad Educativa Tomas de Berlanga, Santa Cruz island, Galapagos.Tomas de Berlanga, a private school committed to providing an education which incorporates the environment and conservation, hires about five English teachers a year. More information from Susanna Schiess at Correo Central, Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador

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