Friday, February 27, 2009

Chopsticks and Mating

This week we had two exciting events in the second grade.

One was a field trip to Chinatown, where we learned about immigration, affordable housing issues, murals, and activism. We also went out to lunch together, 43 kids and assorted adults.

In preparation for going out to lunch, we taught some lessons on how to eat in a restaurant. How to put your napkin on your lap, the pleasantries involved in ordering food, what to do if some of the food is not to your liking, and, of course, how to use chopsticks. We practiced on macaroni and cheese and broccoli (school lunch).

The chopsticks were quite an adventure. It's a tricky business, the use of chopsticks. One or two girls were so good at it that they were congratulated by the staff of the restaurant. Others persevered for a long time, but I think got a total of one noodle in their mouths, until I suggested kindly that they switch over to forks. I admired their persistence.

Besides Chinatown, there was exciting action in Ladybug Land. Namely, sex. Yep, today we took out the ladybug habitat to find two ladybugs (who emerged as adults from their pupa over vacation last week) tightly clasped together. I was very excited, and followed them around with my camera as they scurried (yes, scurried, still while connected) about. No privacy for these two.

I'm not sure what my kids thought of it. "They're mating!" I exclaimed. "They're meeting?" someone asked. "No," I answered. "Mating!"

"What does that mean?" I was asked, a number of times.

"It means the male is fertilizing the eggs so they can have babies," I answered. Some of my students gave me bemused smiles, others smirked, and still others watched the copulation in silent, wide-eyed wonder. Prima said she hoped there would be a doctor in the habitat, for when the babies are born. She was so inspired by the whole event that she and Jayna spontaneously set about composing a book about ladybug life cycles.

"Who is on top?" someone asked. "The male or the female?" I wasn't sure (now I know it's the male), and I felt a little funny engaging in a conversation about who was on top with 8-year-olds. But when they laughed, I giggled with them. I mean, come on. Ladybug sex is funny. And very cool.

Finally, here is one milkweed bug (they are getting so big!) amongst a collection of exoskeletons that have been discarded over the past weeks. The habitats are littered with exoskeletons.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Oh yes, the bugs are thriving in the second grade!

The kids put together amazing habitats for our milkweed bugs. (I mean, I taught them how to do it, and I learned it from our FOSS curriculum.) They look so cool. Here they are:

They feature all the things insects need to live:

  1. Air: in the form of 100 holes poked with a pushpin.
  2. Water: in a very cool reservoir with a paper towel wick. Please note that there is a tube on the drinking fountain that comes out a hole in the plastic bag. Using a syringe, we can put more water in the reservoir without opening the bag. This means the milkweed bugs don't escape.
  3. Food: in the form of a little mesh bag of sunflower seeds. The little buggers love them.
  4. Space: to climb around on, from the twigs put together with rubber bands. This keeps the bag open. A cotton ball is attached to the twigs. This is where they will lay their eggs.
Cool, no?

Even cooler is the pulley system I invented. The habitats hang down from a rope that stretches across the classroom. They are too high for the kids to see well, so I rigged up some little pulleys, using string and paper clips. We can lower the habitats when they want to observe them, and then raise them back up out of the way of our heads.

Here are some of our little milkweed bug nymphs.

I told you they love those seeds!

And now, see what arrived today.

Can you guess what it is? A hint: as an adult, it will be red with black spots.

PS. We also have waxworms in nearly all the stages of their life cycle: larva, pupa, and adult moth. But they are pretty gross. Cool in a creepy way, but not as fun to take pictures of.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Will Power

Today we read a story from Frog and Toad Together about will power. Frog and Toad were eating delicious cookies, and they couldn't stop, even though they knew they should. Frog thought it would be good to have will power. Toad said, "Frog, you can have my will power. I just wish I had the cookies."

Afterwards, I asked when my students had used will power.

One said he used it to stop himself from playing his video game all the time. (yay!)
Another said he used it to try to eat more healthy food.
Malik said one word: "broccoli."
The last said he uses will power to help him not be so shy when he meets new people.

Pretty good, no?

The day also included snowshoeing in the forest, metamorphosis of waxworms (and the escape of one of the moths, who happily landed on my pants), and very cute little red milkweed bug nymphs. They look like this:

But later they will look like this:

Pretty cool, huh?