Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mealworm Mishaps

In second grade, students learn about insects. They learn about their body parts, how they eat and how they help humans. They also learn that insects are fragile and that their heads will detach from the body if a viewing glass comes down on them at a high speed.

Working with mealworms allows students to see up close how insects act. Students can observe them and take note of why they are considered an insect. Part of the curriculum involves teaching students about the three body parts of an insect-the head, the thorax and the abdomen. No where in the curriculum does it list separating these body parts into individual pieces. During our first encounter with the mealworms-which consists of students having one on their desk and a viewing glass to get a close up of them-we had this happen. 

Sometimes I get nervous about second graders being out of control or unruly. I cannot imagine what the mealworms were thinking as they were handled-most likely sheer fear. I made my way around the classroom to help students identify the parts of the mealworm. I had to give students several reminders about how delicate these creatures are. Of course, little boys spend their summers lighting ants on fire with the heat of the sun and these reminders went over their heads. Then, I heard it.

"It's DEAD!!" 

Now, hearing this phrase from the particular student did not shock me. It probably didn't shock the mealworm either considering the last few moments of it's life were spent in an involuntary roller coaster of motion. I went over to the desk and picked up the viewing glass to get a closer look. Sure enough, the head of the mealworm had been completely disconnected from the body. The viewing glass allowed me to see the greenish ooze that came from the accident. I couldn't decide whether the ooze was the mealworm's lost lunch from the previous activity or its poor little insides. Either way-yuck.

In a fast thinking mode I brought the mealworm container over and held it up to distract the student and magically-out with the old and in with the new- a live mealworm had now taken the dead one's place. Call me the Harry Houdini of the insect world. There were no more deaths that day. Whew.

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