Friday, April 30, 2010

Taxonomy and the Animal Kingdom: Arthropods- Part Two

Hurt no living thing,
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.
-Christina Rossetti

Our study of Arthropods continued today with an exciting visit from the University of Colorado Discovery Science Program's "Bug Mobile".
The CU Discovery Science Program is an award winning outreach program that began as a pilot program run by Fiske Planetarium; it collaborates with CU faculty to bring cutting edge and inspirational science programs to Colorado classrooms. The program serves over 30,000 Colorado students annually and has helped to raise the caliber of science instruction in the state.

Our knowledgeable guest facilitator, Samantha McBride, came to discuss the characteristics of arthropods, their life cycles, uses as pollinators, and adaptations like camouflage. She did an amazing job of adapting the presentation to the interests and abilities of the children.

The children got to experience the vast diversity of arthropods by examining a large assortment of mounted specimens, including the molted exoskeleton of a tarantula (with quite impressive fangs)!

The children also got an up-close and personal view of eight live specimens that were on loan from the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center. It was really amazing to be able to view them in such a small group setting and see them at a pace that really invited inquiry and deliberate observation.

I was particularly pleased by the politeness and self restraint demonstrated by the children; I know that CU generally does not do this program with children under the age of three and a half. Nevertheless, the class listened to the presentation with rapt attention and asked insightful questions. The facilitator remarked that their respectful behavior was more impressive than that of some third grade classrooms she had been in! Needless to say, I was very proud of them.

The living specimens included a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach,

a huge centipede from Parker, Colorado!

a beautiful millipede,

a brazen Chilean Rose Tarantula,

a beautiful and inter-active walking stick (he waved his arms around trying to scare us away, before getting very still and eerily rocking back and forth),
a shy hermit crab, a scorpion, a black widow spider, and a terrarium that was practically over-run with large, playful roly polys.
The program afforded the children the opportunity to have a concrete, first hand experience with arthropods that they would not have encountered otherwise; additionally, I have no doubt that it will help to peak their interest in the life sciences and the amazing diversity of life on Earth. Perhaps there were even some future entomologists in the room!
Our sincere thanks goes out to Samantha McBride for her interesting and enjoyable presentation and to the CU Science Discovery Program for making the experience possible. For more information about their program, please visit their website at:


  1. Isn't it thrilling to imagine what kind of future impact these experiences can have on our little ones? What a great opportunity for the children to gain a greater appreciation of the "lowly bug".

  2. Thank you for your comment. I have read some of your posts on "Maria Montessori," but I had not seen your blog before. I really enjoyed it!

    It is amazing to think about how experiences like these might impact children in the future. I am also always struck by how radical Montessori's belief in the absorbent mind is- even today (with so much better information about how people really acquire knowledge and a better scientific understanding of cognitive science afforded with the advent of PET scans), the idea that the youngest child is learning through experiences like these is not well understood (people think that if the child is to young to memorize facts- learning is not taking place). I had to do a little convincing to get people to think it would be worthwhile (and practically manageable) with the youngest children, but it was quite evident that they learned a lot (it takes the youngest children a little longer to process their experiences, I find, but by the end of the day there were a lot of conversations going on about what they had seen and an amazing amount of recall of the exact terms and concepts) and that it will provide the initial, concrete experience that will help them to scaffold more abstract concepts around.