As a young boy, I found bathroom humor to be quite hilarious. When someone farted in class, everyone burst out laughing. It was funny. To make my friends laugh, I just had to say, “Poop” or “Pee.” Bathroom jokes are super funny. I’m not sure what it is, but talking about one’s bowel movements is hilarious. Even now, as a still young boy trapped in the body of a 38-year old man, poop and pee are some of the funniest words I know.
Knowing this about our students, my co-teacher and I planned a lesson around bathrooms. When trying to figure out what big issue we wanted to tackle when studying the country of Niger, we did copious research. In the process, we found that Niger is lacking access to clean water and sanitary facilities. Once we learned that little nugget of truth, we stopped searching because we knew we had our topic.
Today in Humanities class, following a discussion regarding the physical geography of Niger and how that impacts the country and its citizens, we introduced the following fact: More than 50% of Niger’s citizens practice open defecation. As most of our students did not understand what open defecation means, the room was silent until I explained and modeled what it means. Then the laughter and groans began. We explored this fact a bit more as we asked the students probing questions. How many bathrooms do we have here at Cardigan? How many clean sanitary facilities does Niger have? How does this lack of clean and safe restrooms affect the people of Niger? Are there health risks involved in open defecation? The boys were incredibly engaged in the discussion. They shared personal stories about sanitary facilities in their native countries while also examining the issues involved. They seemed disgusted by the facts, but intrigued. When it was time for Morning Break halfway through the double block period, the boys didn’t want to leave. They were enthralled. They wanted to continue talking and discussing. That rarely happens. They were totally into it.
Following Morning Break, we continued our discussion with some fun and interesting toilet facts from around the world. The students were surprised to learn how many people are injured from toilets on a yearly basis or how many children die each day due to diarrheal diseases. They were shocked by some facts and amused by others. I was dismayed to learn how many people drop their cell phones into toilets on a yearly basis. Who does that? Well, of course I’ve now jinxed myself. No more cell phones near toilets for me. Following our discussion, we introduced the activity that would allow the students to dig a little deeper into the lack of access to sanitary facilities that millions of people face every day. The students needed to prepare for a Socratic Discussion we would be having tomorrow in class. They were interested and excited by this activity. During the final moments of class, they put forth great effort into researching where the responsibility lies in providing access to clean and safe sanitary facilities. Should the local or national governments provide clean bathrooms to its citizens or should the individual citizens be responsible? After this engaging lesson and activity, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
Tapping into the minds and interests of sixth grade boys can be very beneficial at times. Allowing them to talk and at times laugh about pooping made today’s study on Niger extremely engaging. While they may not remember the names of the deserts littering Niger, they will remember the facts regarding the lack of access to clean sanitary facilities. The novelty of today’s discussion helped keep the students on track and focused. Brain science tells us that teaching through novelty can help the student genuinely learn new concepts and ideas. By allowing our boys to talk about an often taboo subject in the classroom, we hooked them on the issue of sanitary facilities and how limited they can be in some parts of the world. Sometimes, what most people and teachers find offensive and inappropriate can be the one thing that will make your class or activity engaging and fun for the students. See, even potty humor has its place in the classroom. Take that Mrs. Carr, Poop is funny!