Here's what we are doing today.
It's the Live Crustacean Observation Lab!
I love this activity, although it's not deep science or highly technogeekable.
It's mostly about stimulating wonder.
Stimulating a sense of wonder in kids who have multiple nature channels on their tv's and whole fantastic virtual worlds on their home computers and Wii's has become a bit of a challenge.
Mostly, they are isolated from real live things beyond their own pets ... and these are country kids!
Surprisingly, dead stuff in jars is still interesting to them ... but not WOW inducing ... not to me anyway, and I need to be WOWED too. I get my WOW's from their WOW's ... sort of a WOW to WOW chain reaction.
Most of these Florida kids have eaten shrimp, but you would be surprised at how few have been up close and personal with a live shrimp. Having grown up tossing castnets for shrimp, eating shrimp, keeping them in aquaria and using shrimp as bait ... I still find that hard to believe.
The lab is pretty straight forward ...
Every team of students receives a small plastic aquarium and a live shrimp to observe.
They draw and label some major structures.
These kids draw from their text fairly often, but drawing from life freaks them out a little bit.
I like to freak them out every so often.
When the drawing is complete, they track the shrimp's movements for 5 minutes. This can be interesting or not so interesting depending on the shrimp. Today's shrimp were pretty chilly from being outside in a baitshop tank during a night with freezing temperatures, so the first class had some very calm shrimp.
Oh well, patience is a virtue in science.
After the required lab items are covered and a brief safety/humane handling demo, they are encouraged to gently handle the shrimp.
Shrimp jump backwards to escape danger, so this can get pretty exciting.
Sometimes, they leap out of the tank in a spray of salt water.
That usually elicits some Wowwhoaexclaimacalation, which I always enjoy.
The shrimp, protected by their wonderful exoskeleton, survive the leap and are quickly reaquaintaquarianated.
Shrimp thoughts ... "Hmmm, cold smack landing on classroom floor then quick return to aquarium VS hook through my body & tossed to a hungry fish as bait ... okay, a no brainer, even for an invertebrate like me"
Wow! Look at that face!
The shrimp were purchased from a tiny store in Otter Creek. Depending on how you look at it, they are either real lucky or real unlucky.
They were unlucky to be caught for sale as live bait, but lucky that I stopped in the store at 7:00 am today and bought them for this lab.
Instead of being put on a hook and tossed out for a hungry seatrout or redfish to strike, they will be spending some extra time on the planet swimming in my large classroom saltwater tank.
A little handling by skittish teenagers was a minor inconvenience compared to that whole "hook through your butt" fishing bait thing.
Shrimp swimmerets in action.