17 October 2008
Trick or Treat for Professionals
So I’m at a professional conference this week – National Association of Biology Teachers. I’m not a biology teacher, but I work with them, and I got invited to be part of a panel session. It’s been more than a decade since I attended a big conference like this, one with an Exhibit Hall. If I ever went in that Exhibit Hall, all I can remember was piles of books and journals, and I don’t remember a single give-away (except catalog listings of books you could order). This one was ripe with textbook publishers (this is a teacher conference, after all!), but also lab equipment companies, some government agencies, and even some eco-learning-travel agencies (can schools really fund class trips to Costa Rica? Wow. I went to the wrong high school!).
Anyway, I realized it was kind of like Treat or Treat for grown-ups. At least half the booths had bowls of candy: fun size snickers, cello-wrapped candy corn (I can never find this at home!), and stuff like that. One classy operation had Reeds Ginger Chews! Maybe a quarter were giving away bags, including some very nice canvas bags. (Best bag: Encyclopedia of Life. And I’m not just saying this because they paid for my trip! Theirs is dark green tyvek, has a stiff bottom that folds out of the way, and is large enough to hold two gallons of milk side-by-side. Any guesses what I plan to do with most of my canvas bags?). But my favorite tchotcke was this squeezy zebra stress relief guy. Second favorite: little packet of sun butter, compliments of the US Department of Agriculture.
Good planning on someone’s part: the people with the fetal pigs and other dissection stuff were not next to the “free dissection alternatives” OR the Animal Welfare Institute. (To be honest, I didn’t look closely at what I assumed were fetal pigs, maybe they were just rubber models. I doubt it, though.) Anyway, I had this surreal moment when the woman at the Animal Welfare Institute booth – after I took one of their gorgeous “Animal Friendly Biology Education: Study Them in their Natural Habitats” posters – looked at my name tag and said “Oh, Museum of Zoology, what is that?” Uhhhhhhh….lots of bones and skins and pickled organisms. You know, dead animals. Things far removed from their natural habitats. But hey, I’m not a biologist, I didn’t capture any of them! So I said something along the lines of “oh, you know, zoology. Natural history and stuff like that.” and walked to the next booth – which, come to think of it, was Skulls Unlimited, “the world’s leading supplier of osteological specimens.” They make reproductions – but must get the original skulls somehow. I wonder if those two booth neighbors glared at each other?