Strange stuff I’ve learned from students this spring

*** GRIM IMAGES at the bottom of the blog: you have been warned. ***

I fully appreciate that most of this won’t be strange or novel to many of you but here are a few of the things students have taught me over the last term.


A term to describe mammals in the horse family and this includes donkeys. Sounds like a Dr Who villain to me.


There are four types of injections: intravenous (into the vein), intramuscular (into the muscle), subcutaneous (into the tissue) and intradermal (into the skin, specifically the dermis).


Parasites that can transfer from animals to humans. They might act differently when living on or in their human host compared to their animal host. This makes me feel very itchy.


You can buy a ruler with scaled measurements already printed on it to help you with engineering, architectural drawings and landscape gardening.


You take a dog’s pulse on the inside of its thigh – or as we call it in this household, its chicken-leg. For an explanation of where the chicken-leg nickname came from, please refer to my model, Maggie: she’s posing to show you what I mean… None of these shots are the aforementioned grim photos; you still have that joy to come.


A shrub is defined as having multiple stems and being under 6 metres in height but mostly a shrub is a shrub because it’s not a tree. But a shrub can also be a tree. This is about as clear as the rules for cricket.


I cannot believe this actually has a real life purpose beyond tricky GCSE maths questions. I helped students to use tan to calculate the gradient of run-offs for garden designs. That’s quite possibly the first time I’ve used it in twenty years.

CARBURETTOR (or carburetor)

An engine gizmo but not used in modern cars because they were replaced with fuel injection systems. A carburettor mixes air with fuel – described to me as the French Shaker of a car engine. I did question the choice of metaphor given that drinking and driving is (rightly) a no-no. The response was that, just like a cocktail, the right mixing leads to magic.


The ruminant digestive system appears in creatures such as cows and deer to help them consume plant matter. They have four, yes FOUR, stomach chambers to help break down their food. Please note, I have three: food stomach, cheese stomach and chocolate stomach.


This is the proper name for those forged iron tools you use to poke and prod a fire. I like it because it sounds a little quaint.

And finally…


Self amputation. No, really. Some creatures can shed or discard an appendage to evade a predator or due to injury.

I was shown the photos of Lexie, a student’s lizard, who had dropped her tail the night before due to a miscommunication with the family dog. Dropping the tail sounds swift and accidental – the process is neither. Lexie spent some time with the tip of her tail clamped in her jaw, tearing it away from the main bulk. After this tale (you may laugh, that was a pun) and the shock of these photos, I chose to skip my lunch. This function is simultaneously genius and gross.


Are you sure?

Brace yourself…

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