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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Bugs in V.A.M.?

We often find ourselves raising new and exciting living creatures, sometimes even insects.  Call it science or just plain old curiosity.  We've raised painted-lady butterflies, ants in a space-age gel, lady bugs from larvae and a praying mantis from her egg.  (We had to let nature adopt her 187 siblings.)  There are many humorous anecdotes, but they would lead me further off my topic.

This summer we decided to try our hand at monarchs.  It is not an easy endeavor.  First, one needs to ensure a steady supply of milkweed leaves.  So, we grew some potted milkweed, only to later discover that our friends have a garden in which milkweed is truly a weed.  They were only too happy to have my daughter root it out. 

There is a point to my discussion, but I'm slow as a slug in getting there.  In raising monarchs this summer, we received three caterpillars in the mail.  We deeded one over to our milkweed-rich friends, and kept two.  We soon noticed a significant difference in the size differential of our two caterpillars.  One, dubbed Betterfly, plumped up in the healthiest way and took on extra length.  The other, Cuterpillar, seemed to go nowhere. Unfortunately, the littlest guy didn't make it.  We buried him among a growth of flowers. 

So, here is my point--which is really a question.  What is my value-added measure for monarchs?  I had two caterpillars of roughly equal size, doubtless, sharing a very similar life history.  The two caterpillars were moved into the same home, given the same pile of leaves to eat and the same amount of care.  One is doing well.  He is an accomplished eater.  If we made an analogy to academics, we might say he is an accomplished reader.  And the one that keeled over, well, in academic terms, let us say the results were less than desirable.  

Who is to blame?  The two outcomes were so different; yet, the conditions seemed so similar.  If one butterfly should live to fly away as a beautiful monarch and the other lies buried in the ground, stunted in its growth, am I highly effective or highly ineffective? It set me to thinking about V.A.M.  How much influence do I have over the test grades of my students or their academic success, let alone their lives?  Do you think there might be some bugs in V.A.M.?

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