Learning pains

“This has nothing to do with whether I like you or not,” Middle School science teacher John Bandos said with a smile before he poked a student’s finger with a lancing device.

The student seemed more surprised that it was over so quickly — he had asked Bandos to do it because he was afraid of needles. “Now squeeze it,” Bandos said. “Get a good drop there before you collect it.”

Other, less-squeamish, students gave tips to their friends: “Push it in slowly and it doesn’t hurt.” Another student still drew no blood despite several painful pokes. Bandos tried, still no blood. Then he figured out why: The boy had forgotten to take the top off the sharp. One boy, despite several pokes, couldn’t keep the blood flowing long enough to collect four  drops for the test. A girl couldn’t stop hers. “Wipe it with alcohol,” Bandos told her. “It’ll stop immediately.”

It was time for the annual blood typing lab, something that’s been part of Bandos’ seventh-grade science curriculum for nearly 30 years. And in that time, Bandos has seen it all. He works the room with good humor, poking students, encouraging them to poke themselves and reminding others that they do not have to do it if they truly don’t want to. There is synthetic blood they can work with, and a couple students without signed permission slips saying they could participate in the lab looked dolefully at their classmates who were shouting out “I’m O negative.” To which another responded, “Me, too! Woo hoo!”

It’s the first lesson in a unit on the circulatory system that then moves into genetics and includes, at the end, a mystery for students to solve using information learned in class.

Bandos said he often finds that the students come in scared or worried or with the notion that they can’t do this lab and they end up having fun while they learn not just about science, but about themselves, too.

And they also got a kick out of the Hello Kitty and Cinderella Band-Aids they got when the lab was completed.

By Ron Bernas