A few weeks ago, we had a new member join Open Doors.  Cecilia is fourteen years old and passionate about science, particularly biology and the healing arts.  But she noticed that nobody else at her school seemed to be as passionate as she was — they didn’t even want to be there.

Cecilia is also a hands-on learner:  the rote memorization required before she could dissect a simple worm felt lifeless and meaningless to her.  In her science class last year, the class got to do only one dissection, and her teacher had to leave the room because she was squeamish.

Cecilia was looking for people who could match her passion and meet her need for hands-on learning.  In her first week at Open Doors, she was dissecting pig’s lungs, facilitated by Rebecca Kirk — our director, a science teacher, and a hands-on learner herself.  Rebecca picked lungs first because the tissue feels and looks differently than any other tissue, and it’s not what you would expect.

lungs deflated and inflated
Pig’s lungs — first deflated, then inflated. Breathe out, breathe in.

Since that first dissection, Cecilia has her learning hands everywhere — feeling the chambers of a pig’s heart (in another dissection), drawing dissection diagrams, and even helping a veterinarian as he makes his rounds.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

She’s also full of explorations and questions.

“I feel like I know almost nothing about chemistry — where should I start?”  (We suggested Hunting the Elements, an excellent NOVA special.)

“It feels like humans are easier to help heal than animals — at least humans can tell you what’s wrong.”  (We passed on the DVD of Temple Grandin, to show how Dr. Grandin’s autism helped her understand cows through careful observation.  The reference to autism led elsewhere …)

“That’s another area — how the brain works.  I want to see it work.  And what causes it to work differently in some people?”  (It turns out that Cecilia was already pursuing a visit to a neurosurgeon at work.  After further conversation, we passed on a Psychology Today article called “Confessions of a Sociopath,” about functional sociopaths, which includes a bit about the role of genetics and environment on the brain.)

Then it was on to the Internet as we discussed cancer and how cells might replicate and what was known and unknown in that field.

Learning.  Often it’s as natural as breathing.