Engrossing science

Sylvia Branzel, inventor of the grossology method of teaching science is interviewed by Teacher magazine.

Q: What was the first gross thing you did in class?

A: We did burps. I didn’t go over the top right away.

Q: No demonstrations?

A: Of course, we did things like “How can you make yourself burp?” Balloon burps — you know, those kinds of things.

Q: Did you always have a latent interest in grossness?

A: What I’m into is teaching. So when I realized that gross stuff was a hook, I thought, Well, this is the perfect way to hook children into learning. Given my background in microbiology, I’m not appalled easily. So it probably took a combination of the fact that I had a stronger stomach than most combined with my love of teaching children.

Q: Why do you think kids respond to grossness?

A: The primary reason I think that children like gross stuff is because most of it is taboo. And once children find out, “Oh, this is a taboo subject,” they want to know even more about it. The second part is that children, like all humans, like to play with emotions, and human beings are the one animal that experiences disgust. … So you can have that kind of joy in the emotional response: “Ew, I get to feel disgusted.”

Branzel has written a series of Grossology books.

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