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Your favorite insect or other small creature

  • 1.  Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-22-2017 12:32 PM
    Do you have a favorite insect or other small creature to observe, or to have your children care for and observe?
    My favorite is the small crustacean, an isopod commonly known as a pill bug (although they are crustaceans not insects), roly-poly, slater, potato bug, sow bug, and other names.
    This small animal doesn't bite, sting, or stink and just needs some soil and leaves from nature to happily live in a container for a few days. To keep them longer, use a larger container, keep the habitat moist, and feed them salad-no dressing! One of my favorite books about them is John Himmelman's A Pillbug's Life.  

    But with the spring of 2017 arrival of a lot of cicadas, the roly-polies have taken a back seat. This website is a great resource on cicadas: http://www.cicadamania.com
    Some children are scared of the exoskeletons (ecdysis) left behind by the nymphs as they change to the adult form and others try to collect as many of them as they can!





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    Peggy Ashbrook
    Early childhood science teacher
    Alexandria, VA
    NSTA The Early Years columnist, Science and Children
    Early Years blogger, www.nsta.org/earlyyears
    Author: Science Learning in the Early Years, and
    Science Is Simple
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  • 2.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-22-2017 02:44 PM
    Mealworms are easy to get, sturdy, and you observe several full life cycles during a school year.  They are also easy to care for. They are pretty <g class="gr_ gr_210 gr-alert gr_spell gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim ContextualSpelling" id="210" data-gr-id="210">tidy</g> and can live in a plastic shoe box.  the only mess is usually when children spill the oatmeal.

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    Susan Lindaman
    Sullivan MO
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  • 3.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-23-2017 07:26 AM
    Susan, I agree that "mealworms" which are insects, not worms, are a good sturdy, non-biting, non-stinging, easy to care for insect, even for 2-year-olds. My children call them "beetle babies" and count up the number of larvae (babies, like caterpillars), pupa, and adult beetles as they watch the insects grow to adult form.

    If I coo over the larvae and say "Ohh, look at the baby!" the children are quite comfortable touching them. Some begin with "just one gentle finger" and later pick the larvae up.

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    Peggy Ashbrook
    Early childhood science teacher
    Alexandria, VA
    NSTA The Early Years columnist, Science and Children
    Early Years blogger, www.nsta.org/earlyyears
    Author: Science Learning in the Early Years, and
    Science Is Simple
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  • 4.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-22-2017 05:05 PM
    I recommend ladybugs, caterpillars, earth worms, and snails! Children can observe so much from these tiny creatures-- including concepts from math and science (compare/contrast, identify patterns, describe, sort & classify based on size & other traits, and observe growth).

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    Christine Hill
    Senior in early childhood education
    program at Rowan University
    Glassboro, NJ
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  • 5.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-23-2017 07:28 AM
    Christine, do you recommend introducing these cool animals in a particular order or season? Are some best for certain age groups?

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    Peggy Ashbrook
    Early childhood science teacher
    Alexandria, VA
    NSTA The Early Years columnist, Science and Children
    Early Years blogger, www.nsta.org/earlyyears
    Author: Science Learning in the Early Years, and
    Science Is Simple
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-24-2017 01:06 PM
    Peggy, I would suggest earth worms and snails for the fall and ladybugs then caterpillars for the spring. In my perspective, choosing to study the growth of caterpillars last will lead to high interest and engagement from the students that builds off nicely from observing ladybugs, whereas studying ladybugs second may not be as compelling for the children. As for ages, I think it depends on the individual students and the classroom behavior. While worms can even be studied in preschool, the skills of scientific observation and how to handle objects under observation should be introduced prior to studying creatures like worms. Studying leaves in the fall and observing insects outdoors first may be a good place to start.

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    Christine Hill
    Senior in early childhood
    education program
    Rowan University
    Glassboro NJ
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  • 7.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-23-2017 07:30 AM
    Worms. My class loves worms. We find them in our garden and watch them move around. We compare them to caterpillars and people. They carry them around in bowls, take them on the slide, and put them in their pockets. Then they put them back in the garden so they can find their 'mom and dad'. I love it when they find birch tree seeds and are so excited that they found more worms!

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    Catherine Roach
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 8.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-23-2017 12:33 PM
    I love spiders -- arachnid, not insect. Three years ago, I forced myself to control my fears and I became a fan. I am amazed by spiderwebs and encourage the children in my class to observe what is left behind and to speculate how it got caught. Whenever a child finds a web on the playground, we examine it together.

    My favorite small creatures (mammals) are mice. I find them fascinating -- such a variety of personalities and characteristics. Our current mouse is named, Tim! Sometimes I will steal away on a weekend and watch Tim as he burrows beneath his bedding.

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    Phillip Baumgarner
    Hull GA
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  • 9.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-23-2017 05:45 PM
    Hello Peggy,

    We are wrapping up our bug study now and have watched the transformation of a caterpillar change into a butterfly. This easily my favorite insect as it's life cycle is miraculous. Several people don't know the difference between a cocoon and a chrysalis so just discussing and exploring that difference alone was satisfying, but this unit could go on forever. Since we focus so much on metamorphosis it is really cool to lead them from the bug discussion to a frog/amphibian unit and read a classic, Caterpillar and Polliwog. This could also branch out to a discussion of the circle of life and what other creatures eat bugs.

    Insectlore.com or .de has great activities and options for purchasing live insects. We ordered all of our supplies for our caterpillar/butterfly observation from them and received everything within 2 weeks!

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    Jelena Shaw Moore
    APO AE
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  • 10.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-24-2017 10:16 AM
    Remember silk worms!  They do require mulberry leaves which can require a little sleuthing.  Older Kindergarten yards in public schools in Los Angeles often have a mulberry tree, as do some preschool yards.  The process is well worth the effort as the eggs hatch into minuscule worms.  This is a great opportunity for learning to use a magnifying glass to see their mouth parts move as they eat.  They  grow quickly both in length and girth, and when they are ready, they spin their cocoons.  Finally the moths hatch and lay eggs for the next generation.  Here are many opportunities for observation, documentation and data collection.  The rich history and cultural connections provide opportunities for outreach to Asian families and communities - the possibilities are endless.  Also, to get more information and guidance, Googling "silkworms" will lead you to a treasure trove of resources.

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    Gay Macdonald
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 11.  RE: Your favorite insect or other small creature

    Posted 05-24-2017 12:22 PM
    I'm quite partial to Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, actually! They are quite docile, can be handled and are easy to care for. They do not have wings, so they cannot fly. They are not aggressive and do not bite, so they can not harm humans in any way. Although some warmer areas, like Florida, ban them because of the potential for invasive species spreading, they would not survive in my Ohio winters and cannot survive long inside buildings without care.

    The MHCs we had in my classroom were artists (we had their work of art hanging in the hallway) and athletes (we hosted a Cockroach Olympics in which  they ran races and mazes and had a coin-pulling contest). We learned from experimentation that their favorite food was fresh orange slices, and were able to watch several of them molt.

    MHC


    MHC



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    Lydia M. Bowers
    NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council
    Cincinnati, Ohio
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