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08 January 2012

Inquiry and ducks and trash

Recent news stories about debris on Canadian West Coast beaches arriving from (possibly) Fukushima (visit this noaa.gov page to learn more) reminded me of NPR's story last spring about the rubber ducks washing up on the west coast of North America in the spring of 1992.  This morning I read a short post from an IB colleague, Patrick OSullivan, which sent me back to listen to the  NPR story again, about the writing of Moby Duck, by Donovan Hohn. (Read an excerpt here)


Patrick quoted a paragraph from the prologue of the book, which he himself had read on the blog of a colleague, who introduced it with  "Anyone interested in inquiry, science, adventure, toys, teaching, the environment, high seas, mysteries, and basically anything else will need to pick up this book for a great summer read."


"Follow one line of inquiry and it will lead you to another, and another. Spot a yellow duck dropped atop the seaweed at the tide line, ask yourself where it came from, and the next thing you know you're way out at sea, no land in sight, dog-paddling around in mysteries four miles deep.  You're wondering when and why yellow ducks became icons of childhood.  You want to know what it's like inside the toy factories of Guangdong.  You're marveling at the scale of humanity's impact on this terraqueous globe and at the oceanic magnitude of your own ignorance.  You're giving the plight of the Laysan albatross many moments of thought."


Well, as a PYP school we're very interested in inquiry, where one question leads to another. The New York Times review of Moby Duck lists a handful of  Mr. Hohn's guiding questions in this inquiry for us:
"Where did the toys come from? What were they made of? What would they look like after spending more than 15 years as castaways? What kinds of people make flotsam hunting their favorite pursuit, and how are the battle lines drawn between conservationists and environmentalists, litterbugs and industrial polluters? How much cargo vanishes at sea? And if it floats, how and where will it travel? What kinds of weather events occur underwater, and how well do we fathom them? How are the perils faced by huge, U-shaped post-Panamax cargo ships different from those that have always bedeviled sailors? And, since Mr. Hohn was an English teacher, how might Melville fit into all this?" (Read the whole review by Janet Maslin, "The Siren Song of the Bath Toy")

The reviewer goes on to paint a picture of Mr. Hohn as an inquirer:
"... “Moby-Duck” makes him sound genuinely open-minded, inquisitive and eager to expand his own understanding of the freakish event on which he’d grown fixated. And he was eager to enhance his secondhand ideas about how the world works with firsthand images and experiences, which he eagerly incorporates into “Moby-Duck.” (link)

Uploaded by on Apr 8, 2011
"Questions can be like ocean currents...wade in a little too far, and they can carry you away.  Follow one line of inquiry and it will lead you to another and another..." (D. Hohn, c. min 4:40)