Why I Boiled Our Leopard Gecko

I walked into my classroom Monday morning and found one of our leopard geckos dead. My students were so sad, but I was secretly happy because I could add his skeleton to my class collection. See, I’m known as the “weird science teacher” at my school. My students always bring me bones and dead things because they know I love that stuff! I put all of their “gifts”, as I lovingly call them, on my shelves for display. I find that the stranger the objects the more the students want to know about them, and that just makes my life so much easier. I live for the days that I can pull out their gifts and incorporate them into our lessons. It not only gives them a real-life connection, but it also grosses some of the out, which is fun for me!

Back to the dead gecko. I wanted to add him to my classroom collection, but some of the students wanted to bury him because they had grown attached. So I set up an online survey, and told them that the majority would win. I also told them that if they didn’t vote, then they couldn’t complain on what the outcome was. Of course my students, being my little weirdos, voted to add him to the class collection. I was ecstatic! We were excited to see if his skeleton would give us any clues as to why he perished. It would also be interesting to see the inside of a gecko. Maybe it would look different than the ones we find on the ground left over from the green anoles that are everywhere.

I set off on my mission: boil, clean, and reassemble our Pipsqueak. First thing, though, you need to know that I call my classroom “organized chaos.” Other teachers walk into it and are simply horrified at what it looks like, but I can find anything at any time because it’s my weird system. Because of my organized chaos, my mission didn’t go exactly as planned. The container that he was in kept getting shuffled around, hidden under piles of notebooks, and I eventually forgot about him. That is until the last week of school. I had found him! I felt horrible that I had forgotten him for so long, but it allowed my students and me to look at a version of the decomposition process, which is cool for some but disgusting for others. You would think they’d be used to disgusting things in my room by now, but obviously not.

Due to my lack of “normal organization” skills, Pipsqueak had gotten to the point that everything had dried hard to his skeleton, so my mission was now a bit harder to complete. I boiled him, like I do with most of my gifts, pulled off what I could, and soaked him in hydrogen peroxide to get the rest off and to clean the bones. What I didn’t realize was that my hydrogen peroxide concentration was too high! I completely botched the mission. Instead of simply cleaning the bones, the hydrogen peroxide basically disintegrated them! I was completely mortified and upset about what happened to little Pipsqueak. Needless to say, he got a burial at sea after my mistake.

I’m sure my students will come back this coming school year and give me a hard time about it, but I look at it as a learning experience—just like when things go wrong in my classroom and the students get upset about it. I remind them that we are human and are supposed to make mistakes so that we can learn from them. We learned at least two lessons from this entire experience: Don’t house two leopard geckos together until you are able to tell the sex of both, and don’t use 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide when cleaning small animal bones because they will disintegrate into nothing.

Weirdness in the classroom is awesome, and the students respond well to it—well some of them!

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