I spent much of today helping out a Rothamsted's schools open day, talking about work being done on mosquito repellents. Some of the kids were gratifyingly engaged, some were more interested in shrieking, taking photos of each other and playing sardines in the "Max capacity 2 persons" elevator until it broke between floors, which I hope taught them a valuable lesson. But I was rather expecting that from them. What I was not expecting was the reaction of one of the teachers.
She brought her class over, took a look at the tank of live
mosquitoes I was standing next to and announced "Eeeew, that's
disgusting!" I was a little taken aback but launched into my spiel
anyway: "Well maybe they are a bit disgusting, but they're also
fascinating, did you know that...." only to be interrupted by her saying
"No, they're horrid". So I told her the word she was looking for was
"horrible" and poured bed bugs in her hand bag*.
I found her reaction utterly bizarre - surely as the class teacher
she would have had some idea of what a visit to an institute doing a lot
of insect research would entail, and to have organsised the trip she
must have seen some value in it for her class? Once she'd wandered off
to be revolted by someone else's display her pupils actually seemed
pretty interested in what we were doing. I just hope they don't pay too
much attention to her over the next few years.
Today I have learnt:
a) It is extremely difficult to appear fascinated the fourhundred
and sixty fifth time someone tells you that they/their Mum/their partner
often get bitten by mosquitoes on holiday/in the garden.
b) It is even harder not to appear puzzled when someone says they
often get bitten at barbecues, and then asks whether there are
mosquitoes in Britain.
c)Asking a class of teenagers if they can think of any diseases
spread by mosquitoes, and getting a confident answer of "AIDS", just
shows how desperately we need to sort out comprehensive sex education in
*unfortunately I only did this in my head.