Bigfoot in science class – that’s a problem

John Pedersen has a 7-foot-tall sasquatch in his middle school classroom.

Bigfoot researcher donates to middle school classroom | KTVB.COM Boise.

Pedersen says he uses the creature to teach kids about ecology and scientific possibilities. What’s more, he now says Idaho State University Professor Dr. Jeff Meldrum, who is a bigfoot researcher, saw KTVB’s story about Pederson’s class and was impressed by the classroom.

So Meldrum donated a footprint cast.

Here is the original piece that prompted Meldrum’s interest.

I’m feeling VEEEERY uneasy about this. What’s wrong with it?

I’m a fan of getting kids to talk about monsters. Love it. But, it’s appropriate in the context of fiction or culture or critical thinking. I do not agree that it should be taught as part of a science lesson in ecology or how science works. Bigfoot is not established. It’s not accepted science no matter what Dr. Meldrum thinks. Teaching ecology (and evolution, which is the “adaptation” part) is great. But, why not teach it with an animal that is established? If Bigfoot is someday well-established to exist then it will make a FANTASTIC science story but it has by no means hit that bar yet. So, I’m left annoyed that this topic as presented here sounds too suggestive of a creationist-like approach that “science doesn’t know everything, therefore BIGFOOT”. That’s not a good way of thinking about the Sasquatch issue. AT ALL. And it is not good science.

  9 comments for “Bigfoot in science class – that’s a problem

  1. spookyparadigm
    May 14, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Almost every Intro to Anthropology textbook I’ve looked at (I specifically check for this) has the same box or sidebar: a picture of the upright Bill Munns Gigantopithecus, and some bit on “Could Gigantopithecus still exist?(book says no) Could it have inspired the legends of Yeti and Bigfoot?(book says maybe, which I think is also wrong).

    The book I use has almost two full pages on it. Most of it is about Gigantopithecus, what do we know, how big was it, how do we know what it ate. In the next to last paragraph, “Humans in different places tell stories about huge, hairy, humanlike creatures” and lists two the I’ve mentioned. “Is it possible that Giganto is still around?” They say probably not due to lack of fossils but then “But perhaps humans continue to believe it because they encountered Giganto in the not-so-distant past. After all, Australian aborigines still tell stories referring to events that happened more than 30,000 years ago.”

    I’ve taught out of or read similar texts with similar sections.; That picture with the Bill Munns statue is striking, and textbook authors correctly know that it will engage students.

    Another one doesn’t use the Munn image, and only gives it a paragraph, but mentions the Yeti, though notes that most primatologists think Gigantopithecus went extinct a million years ago.

  2. badrescher
    May 14, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    What’s wrong with it is the core concept. Science isn’t about possibilities. It’s about probabilities.

  3. Bob
    May 14, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    I have some scat to send them. It might have some kitty litter in it, but I’m pretty sure it’s Bigfoot scat.

  4. cwart12
    May 14, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    @ Bob….

    You’ve litter trained your Bigfoot? I can’t even get mine to scratch the door to let me know he needs to go out….

  5. DW
    May 14, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    I’m left to believe that you’re not worried about what is being taught but are more worried about the fact that it’s bigfoot being used to help teach wildlife forensics.

    This can be a great example of how to use critical thinking for kids to make up their own minds even in forensics. Do you really have the material being taught or are you just being overly skeptic? Perhaps Mr. Pederson’s teachings have a different goal than just belief in bigfoot. This is a science class where it’s being used to teach wildlife forensics. Doesn’t science use some forensic evidence to determine whether a species exists? Didn’t you notice that they interviewed a child who obviously believes in bigfoot and not Mr. Pederson? They could have also interviewed a kid that didn’t believe. Perhaps they interviewed several kids and used what worked for the news story. The fact that Dr. Meldrum donated a cast to the classroom only means he offered possible forensic evidence to a classroom. Perhaps he offered the location and the conditions upon finding the cast. Even his expert opinion is worth more than your concern over this news article. You only used a reporter’s take on this. Perhaps we would have found more out in a factual article versus only one side being represented.

  6. May 14, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    When I visited with Jeff Meldrum, I learned that he donates casts not to promote belief, but to encourage Bigfoot research. While we disagreed about almost everything “Bigfoot”, we agreed that research, within the parameters of the scientific method, is always a good thing. As long as the kids apply proper research methods, I don’t see any problem with them being encouraged to learn that Bigfoot is almost certainly just a myth.

  7. idoubtit
    May 14, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    I have to remind people often that I am NOT a reporter on this site. I am critiquing the news as the public views it. In that respect, there was a CLEAR bias to this story and I see no evidence that Bigfoot is used for critical thinking. But I did see evidence that the science approach was not a good one.

  8. Eve
    May 15, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Hey, if Bigfoot has a degree in science or science education, I say let him into the classroom. It would be pure bigotry to deny him a job as an educator just because he’s, you know, a bit hairy. And non-existent, of course. But if he can prove his existence and his teaching certification, more power to him.

  9. Richard White
    May 15, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Unfortunately, I fear that the lesson being taught in this case is “Science can’t disprove Bigfoot, therefore BF might exist.” This is abysmally poor science, since science doesn’t prove or disprove anything. Proof is for axiomatic systems, like math and law. Science is about evidence. And the weight of the evidence available today falls against the existence of BF. Yes, there is some unexplained evidence. Yes, there is a some probability that BG exists – but that probability is, at this time very low. If that is the take-home message, then discussing BF in a science classroom could be appropriate. But it certainly shouldn’t take up very much time, since there is so much more about what we do know with a high degree of probability concerning the natural world. Having the imaginary BF standing in the classroom all year long would lead credulous young minds to accept the reality of the existence of BF in a way which is not appropriate or healthy.

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