Saturday, May 19, 2012

About Learning a Lesson I Already Knew . . .

We have monarch caterpillars in our classroom right now.  They are eating us out of milkweed on a very regular basis.  Earlier this year, a friend brought us Monarch chrysalises and we had the good pleasure of having them hatch in our classroom.  Now we are coming mostly full circle. . . we haven't had eggs, but that will be for another year.  So we are enjoying watching these little caterpillars eat and grow and poop at a seemingly tremendous rate.  If we are lucky, they will actually become butterflies the last week of school.  If not, I get the pleasure of taking them home.  Either way, it's super cool!  Thank you to Ilse, our butterfly connection!

On a simialar note, we have a terrarium with three local frogs and a mud turtle.  They need constant feeding and live insects are the menu.  (I did find that if you dangle a dead insect the frogs will go for it anyway so it's mostly a movement thing, not an issue of fresh meat.)  At any rate, my students often spend their recess time hunting for live bugs.  One student actually caught a monarch butterfly.  We decided it would be a good big meal and, in the spirit of food webs, we tossed it into the terrarium.  We watched one of the frogs jump at it, take a bite and spit it out.  I thought, "oh that's too bad, it was too big" and then I thought, wait a minute. . . monarchs are poisonous.  I have read that a hundred times.  They eat milkweed and somehow that makes them poisonous to other animals.  In fact, I remember that some butterflies fashion themselves after monarchs just to fool others into thinking they are poisonous.

What an amazing moment!  I have been teaching for years.  I believe in hands-on education.  I believe it makes kids smarter, but I had proof of it that day.  I knew monarchs were poisonous in the recesses of my mind . . . I'd read it many times.  But it really wasn't until I watched a frog spit out a monarch that I really knew it and I'm pretty sure I won't forget it.  We let the butterfly out of the terrarium and it flew to the window and we let it go free.  I think it is a wonder that an insect could teach me so much after all these years.   And I learned a lesson, again, that I already knew . . . kids need to experience learning and I need to keep teaching with that in mind.  Sometimes learning a lesson that you already know is an amazing gift!          

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spring Observations

Checking out the cool frogs in the pond

A captive Reporter

The Fern Garden Grows!
Last week we went out looking for producers, consumers and decomposers.  We found lots of examples of them all happily growing and surviving together in our various backyard explorations!  Our science theme this quarter is Organisms.  We are learning about habitats and ecosystems.  We constructed a small habitat in our classroom for a local green frog.  We have been capturing moths and other insects to feed him during our recess time.  He seems very well fed, however, he may be a bit lonely.  We will release him in the days ahead.