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Pitcher Plants and Peacock Feathers

Sunday, January 8, 2012

 I have this pitcher plant chock-full of insects; I had to share. So I took them to Science Club, which Mrs. Hendrix and I teach on Wednesday afternoons.

The kids were all over it. After a brief lesson on carnivory in plants (imagine!) I gave them some tweezers and encouraged them to find out what kinds of insects the plant had been trapping and digesting.

It wasn't long before we had a good pile o' bugs.

There were a lot of houseflies, some bumblebees; wasps and hapless moths, but the bulk of the catch was hoverflies of the family Syrphidae. I felt kind of bad about that because I really enjoy syrphid flies, especially the big ones that look like yellowjackets, the way they hover, humming loudly, right in front of your face, as if to say BOOGA BOOGA. When I get one in the house in the summer I always try to catch it because they seem to die very quickly in the confines of a house. Sweet bugs. I love their little downcurved abdomens, twitching as if to sting, which of course they can't.

We found an Asian multicolored ladybird beetle chewing her way out of the pitcher! Not stupid. She fell in, took a look at the carnage beneath her feet, and found her way back out. I guess you have to be resourceful to take America by storm. (AMLBB's are a huge pest; once introduced for alfalfa aphid control, they're now wintering by the bazillion in homes all over the East and Midwest). 

Once we had identified all the insects we could using the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, I asked the kids to stuff the dead insects back in the pitchers. It was awesome.

This was a very special Science Club. I had also brought a huge sheaf of peacock tail feathers that a friend had given us. See, you can balance a peacock feather on your hand or nose or cheek or what have you, and it will stand up elegantly. You only have to move back under it when it finally starts to topple.

T. was extremely good at it.  He passed 800 seconds and at that point nobody really cared to count any more. Chet Baker in the background, checking the premises as usual.  The Bacon loved this meeting, and only tried to grab a few feathers off hands and noses.

Phoebe comes to Science Club when she can. I have to say she looked kind of grown up around the 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Sigh. I've tried tying her up, putting a cinder block on her head, but she's 5'9" and still going. It's not easy to have a supermodel in the house. Makes me feel kinda sawed-off and lumpy.

That durn blonde boy is shooting up, too. He loves running around with a peacock feather on his nose.

Gross, Liam. Do you really want to put a tailfeather on your tongue? Don't you know where that feather's been? Bleh.

M. put it on his cheek. My favorite photo from the melee. M. loves birds, especially nighthawks. We showed him his first in September (a huge flock was migrating right over the school grounds) and he about self-combusted with excitement. I smile just thinking about that moment.

And a melee it was. Kids running and laughing everywhere, their faces alight with the wonder of air resistance and gravity, crispy dead hoverflies and plants that eat meat.

Science Club. It's whatever we want it to be.


Wow. That is just plain wonderful. If only all science classes could start off like this...

What a blast! Science club is the best!!

Kathy in
Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous January 8, 2012 at 6:27 AM

If I could, I'd come to Science Club and blend in with the chirren.

I had an outdoor club in an inner city middle school. Other teachers helped me transport the kids on field trips including camping trips and could bring their own children or grandchildren.

One child,probably made to write a thank-you letter, said,after going fishing and birding at a local state park, "you have set my eyes on birds". It's the most wonderful thing anyone has said to me.

I wish every child could have these kinds of experiences.

How totally cool.... what an exciting way for kids to learn about science... keep up the good work!!!

Posted by Anonymous January 8, 2012 at 3:28 PM

How cool! Looks and sounds like everyone had a blast and were completely engaged!

What fun! You make learning fun in your posts too. Thank you!!


What Mary said.

Those are lucky, lucky kids!

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