Wednesday, December 12, 2007

School Yard Bug Out

In the modern classroom we spend so much time these days focusing on testing skills and the FCAT standards. The end result is that a lot of very enriching experiences and activities get shoved to the back of the line ... "Maybe we can do that project, that field trip, etc, after the test in March."

It's frustrating for all involved and sometimes you just have to sneak out for some shock and awe to recharge the "Wow!" factor.

So, last Friday I took each 7th grade science class out into the 40 acre pasture that is behind our school.
Each kid had an insect net thanks to a grant from several years ago. It was quite a sight, which I won't show you in order to protect the privacy of my charges, but I can show you what they caught.

This emerald beauty (not the real name) was the wrong color for a pasture browned by early cold snaps.

There weren't many butterflies out there at this time of year, but when one would pop up, the chase was on ... the boys found this much more exciting than swishing the grass with their nets. This Gulf Frit. stopped in for a visit and then, like everything else, was released.

The highlight of the day (besides the black racer snake) was this pair of walking sticks mating.
You can imagine how fascinating middle schoolers found this event.
Locally, these are "Brown Spitters". Their defense method is to spray a noxious eye irritant if you tick them off.
An entomologist from UF told me that one of his fellow bugnerds was sprayed and spent 24 hours in excruciating pain.
I'm glad the kids listened for once. Before we went out, I discussed hazards and told them if they caught anything they weren't sure of, they should not handle it and bring it to me immediately.

There must have been a zillion of these out there. It was a good day even if we did not practice a single test taking skill.
The students learned that the seemingly "dead" pasture grass was supporting a busy community of various insects, spiders, lizards, and snakes.
That's a pretty important concept.

Now they want to go out every day.

Of course we can't do that, but ...
sometimes, you just gotta bug out.


Anonymous said...

I'm so ignorant. I didn't know that there was a Florida Cracker Academic Test.

Thunder Dave said...

That last one was wearing desert camo!

Hey, how's JR?
My worst injuries (aside from being dropped on my head) have been from B-ball. My nose and my pinky were both damaged in rebounding incidents. I also broke my instep (understandably)kick boxing!

Doug Taron said...

This was a great post. I had a high school biology teacher who did a version of this sort of thing. He was one of my more influential teachers. When I received my doctorate, my parents had a small reception for me, and he was one of the folks that I wanted invited. I'm sure that you are having a similar influence on young minds in Florida. Your students are lucky to have you as a teacher.

I'm pretty sure that your emerald beauty is a southern green-striped grasshopper(Chortophaga australior), though grasshoppers are tough from photos. The brown one is definitely in the same subfamily, the band-winged grasshoppers. It would have had brightly colored wings (most likely yellow, possibly red or orange)visible when it flew. There are tons of species and I won't even attempt an ID of that group from a photo.

robin andrea said...

Now there's a lesson the kids will remember forever. You're the best, fc, you really are. Teach them to see the wildlife in the world, and they may grow up wanting to protect it.

Sharon said...

Yes, you are definitely one of "those" teachers...that the kids will always remember with fondness. :)

kathy a. said...

i agree with everyone -- the kids will remember you and how you got them so interested in things that they otherwise would have ignored.

we have some walking sticks here, but i have never heard of them deploying chemical defenses. [my perspective here is "mom," not "biologist." but we had walking stick classroom pets, and a lot loose on the schoolyard, and even have some outside at home.] ours are all very skinny and have thinner legs than even your skinny one, so they must be a different variety.

dani813 said...

Now this sounds much more fun than going over test taking skills.Hope your doing okay today.

threecollie said...

My, that sounds like fun. All kids should be able to go out every day. The world would be a better place. (All the bugs up here seem to be inside, especially box elder bugs.

Hurricane Teen said...

I wish I had more teachers like you!

pablo said...



Deb said...

I wonder how the kids would do on tests IF you just blew off the "let's practice for the test" time and spent some good time outdoors every day with the kids.

Probably would raise the scores. That's my theory. At any rate, you know what counts and I'm sure the students appreciate you for it.

Advisor said...

Did you watch Boston Legal yesterday? 'High School girl shreds tests as civil obedience act.'

You did right taking them outside.

Cathy S. said...

If I had had science teachers like you, I might have been a scientist instead of a historian! Sounds like fun.

Cathy S. said...

PS Sending prayers for JR. Hope all is well.

Floridacracker said...

You Win! Too funny!

He's fine. Got super glued.

Thanks for that info and the kind words. The hoppers did actually flash orange when they flew.

That is what I'm hoping for. Thanks.

Thanks. I hope they get something to take with them when they leave me.

Kathy A,
We have very slender smaller ones also. This kind, whatever kind it is, are massive.

Definitely more fun.
Junior is doing fine. He's pretty tough.

Our bugs don't know it's almost winter. They're still out frolicing.

yeah, but your FCAT scores might suffer :)


It's about balance and the pendulum has swung too far to teaching a test, not educating kids.

Welcome to Pure Florida! I didn't see that show, but I'd like to shred it myself.

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
Yeah, but you are a great historian/author! It worked out pretty good.
Thanks for the prayers, he's good. A little glue and bandages, no stitches required.

Alan said...

I will be eternally grateful that I graduated before the FCAT was put into place. The last thing our world needs are automatons whose only skill is to recite by rote memory the answer to a standardized test. Teach the kids to explore and how to think, not what to think - the rest will take care of itself. Sounds like a fun day was had by all - except perhaps the walking sticks, due to the interuption... :)

OneCowgirl said...

benchmarks, testing - teachers need to be doing more of what you're doing - your students will retain more from a day like this but administrators, principals don't always get it and are always worrying about the test scores...

Floridacracker said...

You said it!!
Welcome to Pure Florida!

Miss Trashahassee said...

That stickbug thing -- yuck! I'd never seen the bigger ones until I lived in Lake County, and I thought it was some mysterious new alien bug (I didn't know it was a stick bug). Didn't know about the spitting ... glad I didn't make one mad!

Great blog!

Miss T

Floridacracker said...

Miss T,
Glad you didn't irritate one of these things down in Lake County.

Floridacracker said...

Well said. I'm glad I missed the FCAT too.