The Loch Ness Monster

2016-09-28 12:56
Loch less monster.

Loch less monster. (Supplied)

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You may be wondering what on Earth the connection between a mythological monster living in a body of water in the Scottish Highlands and KwaZulu-Natal could possibly be. Well, the connection in this case is a technological and educational one.

Once a year, I stream real-time footage of Loch Ness via a web cam into my Grade 3 computer classes as an extension of work they are doing in the classroom. It is generally an interesting, fun and boisterous lesson, and one that I look forward to.

The web cam provides a great panoramic view of Loch Ness, at the bottom of which is what looks like a small farm or small holding that borders onto the Loch. The image is projected via a data projector onto a large whiteboard in the front of the classroom.

Initially, many of the kids suspect that what they are looking at is simply a photograph, and not the feat of technological wizardry that I tell them it is. Invariably one of the many tourist boats working the Loch will come into view (if one is not already there) and help me dispel this scepticism. I simply circle it with a blackboard marker, and 20 seconds later when the image is refreshed, they can all clearly see that it has moved a centimetre or two.

Sometimes a sheep will also helpfully wander into view, and occasionally a bird lands on the fence, remains for a few frames then a minute or so later disappears. This creates huge excitement, and of course, intensifies the anticipation of possibly seeing the “Loch Ness Monster” itself.

The classes are always divided about whether the Loch Ness Monster is, in fact, real, and I am invariably asked what I think. I say that I am not sure, that some people believe that it exists, others that it doesn’t.

I don’t want to be the person closing the curtain on fertile young imaginations — and part of the learning is that they should work through these things themselves, and arrive at their own conclusions.

This year, despite starting really well, things in one of my Grade 3 classes got completely out of hand.

The debate about the existence of the Loch Ness Monster started with one of the sceptics firmly, but politely admonishing the believers. “You guys are just gullible,” she told them. Gullible! What a lovely word to hear coming out of the mouth of a child in Grade 3. And a bit later, I got what must be possibly the most mature response yet. One of the kids simply responded to the debate with: “I don’t really care whether it is true or not, I just think it is a whole lot of fun and we should enjoy it.” So things were looking good.

This was until a small dark object appeared more or less in the middle of the Loch. One of the kids noticed it, jumped out of her chair shouting and ran up to it pointing. A few others also saw it and started shouting as well. I was caught totally by surprise. Initially, I thought that perhaps another boat had moved into view without me noticing, so I got my trusty whiteboard marker, quickly circled it, and waited. About 40 seconds passed and nothing — then suddenly it disappeared completely. The class erupted into pandemonium. A few seconds later, the object suddenly reappeared a bit further up on the screen, which upped the ante even more. One of the pro-Nessie lobby started screaming repeatedly: “I told you it was real!”

The commotion had been too much for one poor girl who was holding her head in her hands and crying. At a total loss for any reasonable explanation, I quickly turned the data projector off, tried to settle the class and to comfort her. The possibility of a meeting between myself, her parents and the principal started looming large in my mind. I was about to tell her not to be afraid as the Loch Ness Monster did not exist when one of her classmates beat me to it, and said soothingly: “Don’t worry — it’s not here, it’s far away in Scotland and can’t harm you”. This seemed to work and she started settling down.

Later that day, I consulted the oracle of all truth, knowledge and wisdom — the Internet — to see if I could shed any light onto what had happened. I discovered that in fact a small submarine drone had been commissioned to survey Loch Ness, so perhaps it was this that we had seen. But as I say to the kids in my class — I really can’t be sure.

Patrick Makkink is the computer teacher at Epworth Preparatory School for Boys and Girls. He is a big fan of screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto, especially his television series True Detectiveseason one. He believes that the theme song, Far from any Road, is the coolest song ever.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  true stories of kzn 2016

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