Call it hands-on education¬Ě, but I propose that undergraduate biology students who are book and laboratory educated must equally learn to get the feel for it. I use this to describe the ability of a biologist to walk through a landscape, quickly assess the habitat, and get the feel for what kinds of plants and animals could be found and what ecosystem interactions are taking place. This is an essential skill for any biologist. In this unconventional commentary, I provide anecdotal experiences supporting the need for undergraduates to get down in the dirt¬Ě, become muddy or soaked, and try to think and feel like the plants and animals they must learn about. It doesnt matter whether that learning is labeled as hands-on, experiential learning or education, student centered, or challenged base instruction. I remember the perplexed look on a senior wildlife majors face, who had taken a required natural history course, when I pointed to an old cavity tree and asked him to tell me about it and what animals might be within. He was graduating that year with a natural resources degree, but still needed to learn how true naturalists, or students of natural history, are connected with their surroundings like the plants and animals they study. Recently, I felt the same way when a graduate biology student studying the biophytoremediation potential of a plant did not know the plants growing season, plant zone, or soil requirements. The student had only grown it in a lab using hydroponics.
Last date updated on June, 2014