"Sphenisciformes survival hymns" and the clarification of terms or "Learning through penguins"
"If, after hearing my songs," Lehrer says in “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer” "just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while."
I suspect that the Magnet’s friend, who recommended that, instead of spending the evening drinking in the Empire Hotel next door to Benny’s Getaway Motel and Backpackers, in Temuka last week, we visit The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony , harbours similar hopes about travel advice dished out.
I blame myself for the penguin experience - I should have been alerted by the bemused looks, the guarded and essentially humouring responses, from teachers at Opihi College, when we shared our naïve enthusiasms for an evening of penguin watching at Oamaru. Is puzzling because my advanced sense of paranoia means I am usually better at listening to what people are not saying, - it must have been those raw and isolated, starkly hued landscapes of South Canterbury affecting my critical acumen.
Putting to one side, Magnet’s friend's misrepresentation of the time needed to drive from Temuka to Oamaru, (those “45 minutes, yeah right,” Tui beer conversations), then my thoughts were focused on Cj’s latest comments on the “L word”.
"I don't want to spoil the party, the toast or fun problem of PBL, IL or whatever but I still would like to gently suggest that the L word remains a problem, as in L for learning. Before various adjectives are applied it might be worth worrying a little about the thing we all hand wave at and assume we are singing from the same hymn sheet about." Cj comment
My experiences in South Canterbury reveal that the same issue confronts us over the P word, as in P for “penguin”, and it led me to survival hymns. I have blog posted about survival hymns in another context, in Sleep deprivation and survival hymns . These survival hymns are different – they are based around the “P word”, and they hummed in my mind on the return trip as a Sphenisciformes survival hymn. Hummed all the way back through Oamaru Pukeuri,Richmond, Hilderthorpe, Waitaki, Glenavy, Morvern, Willowbridge, Nukuroa, Studholme, Hook, Makikihi, Otaio, St Andrews, Pareora, Kingsdown, Normanby, Scarborough, Redruth, Timaru, Puhuka, Washdyke, Arowhenua,to Benny’s in Temuka
The survival hymn I hummed on the return trip to Temuka, was shamelessly plagiarised from Tom Lehrer’s The Elements, but the lyrics differed. My lyrics were “P word lyrics” Emperor Aptenodytes forsteri; King Aptenodytes patagonicus; Adélie Pygoscelis adeliae; Gentoo Pygoscelis papua; Chinstrap Pygoscelis antarctica; Rockhopper Eudyptes chrysocome; Macaroni Eudyptes chrysolophus; Royal Eudyptes schlegeli; Fiordland crested Eudyptes pachyrhynchus; Erect-crested Eudyptes sclateri; Snares Island Eudyptes robustus; Yellow-eyed Megadyptes antipodes; White-flippered fairy Eudyptula albosignata; Magellanic Spheniscus magellanicus; Humboldt Spheniscus humboldti; African (formerly known as black-footed) Spheniscus demersus; Galapagos Spheniscus mendiculus; are all much bigger than the Blue Eudyptula minor;
What Cj’s comment identified was the need for a clarification of edu_terms.. Especially terms like “learning” which are so common to conversations in education, that we are fooled into imagining a common representation of meaning exists. What the Magnet and I needed, before we set out on our Thelma and Louise and Louise road trip to see the flightless sea birds of the Southern Hemisphere, was a clarification of the term “penguin”.
Our failure to clarify “penguin” meant the Magnet was excitedly imagining something out of March of the Penguins with Emperor penguins the size of vacuum cleaners rushing from the Oamaru sea, and Artichoke was imagining those Bluebird Chip packet clasping penguins dancing with polar bears on the iceflows. We were both, as my diary entry reveals, surprised by the clarification of the “P word” in the context of Oamaru.
After an interminable road trip, we arrived in Oamaru minutes before dusk. We proceeded to the eco-sanctuary and paid top dollar to sit on a narrow wooden plank in the freezing darkness for 2 hours, waiting for nature in the raw to rush from the sea.
Unfortunately what Magnet’s “don’t miss this” friend had also neglected to mention was that in March all the smart penguins had already left the sea to nest and lose feathers out of sight on land - leaving only 7 penguins to pass by the narrow wooden planks of darkly frozen watchers - might still have been OK if they had been emperor penguins or even yellow eyed penguins - but these blue headed beasts are about the size of a 200ml bottle of Deutz - blink and you have missed the exit and rush for the nesting box altogether.
I didn’t want to admit this to the Magnet for Misadventure, because she would never have let me leave the frozen benches, but I am not 100 percent sure that what I spotted were blue penguins, or merely a trick of the dark and the cold.
Fortunately the oldest running restaurant in New Zealand, The Star and Garter in Itchen Street Oamaru provided a "post penguin place" to thaw out, moult, and eat. I chose the blue cod, being the closest thing to penguin food on the menu. It was a perfect decision, a redeeming interlude, a satisfying Sphenisciformes sanctuary, before the Magnet took the wheel of the rental car for the long drive back to Temuka, and the haven of Benny’s Getaway Motel.