Alvin ’20 is a boarding student from New York City. He is a Peddie tour guide and his favorite class is biology.
My biology class made me think about the world around me in a scientific way. I was always excited to come to class and learn something I never thought about before. Everything from anatomy to ecology led to class discussions. Mr. Sham, our teacher, assured us that we learned a lot more discussing the topic as a class instead of being lectured to.
Communication in the class was a big part of what made it so fun. Hands-on activities provided the chance to learn and trade ideas with classmates. Group labs allowed for everyone to learn more because if you didn’t understand something, chances were someone else in your group could explain it to you. Moments like this were especially common.
One weekend before an exam, Mr. Sham invited all students to come to his dorm lounge to ask questions while he was on dorm duty. As the evening went on, more students started to show up as Mr. Sham was increasingly busy in the dorm. It wasn’t until near the end of the night that I realized we students had formed one big study session.
With no instruction or even self-organization, we all naturally mimicked exactly what we did in class. People weren’t just sticking with their closest friends, they were comfortable enough to both get help from and give help to anyone in the group. No one judged how much or little anyone knew, and everyone was respectful whenever one person was addressing the whole group. We used every resource we had: whiteboards, notes, diagrams and more, and we were really productive. We only stopped studying once to play a live game show app — which coincidentally had a biology-related question we knew the answer to!
When Mr. Sham would return to the room, he wouldn’t even answer questions for us because he was confident that we’d figure out the answers together. And he was right — there was not one question left unanswered by the end of the night.
I could tell everyone genuinely wanted the whole class to succeed on this exam just by the way we spoke to one another. I had a great time studying, even if it was for an exam.
Biology has always been my favorite class because of its application to the real world. Every topic we reviewed revealed issues that researchers, governments and communities are actively trying to resolve. Collaborative learning about these topics is real preparation for working on these challenges as professionals in the future.