by Carl Strang
(This is a cross posting from the Nature Notes blog at the Observe Your Preserve website). On Wednesday, Naturalist Nikki Dahlin and I ventured to Winfield School to lead our first complementary program to a teacher participating in the Observe Your Preserve advisory panel. Madeleine Ciezak’s second graders, joined by another second grade class, experienced a mini bioblitz focused on bugs, loosely defined by us as arthropods and expanded by the kids to invertebrates generally.
The idea was to assess the park’s bug biodiversity on that afternoon, in other words to see how many different kinds of bugs we could find. We divided the kids into 6 teams, 3 of which focused on the lawn and sidewalks while 3 explored trees, bushes and other plants. After 15 minutes, the teams switched habitats and surveyed for another 15 minutes. Each team had a teacher or parent with them, and Nikki and I rotated among them and facilitated.
Usually one can expect that any given program or task will engage most but not all kids. No problem here, though.
Before we left the classroom we asked the kids to predict how many kinds of bugs we would find. Estimates ranged from 20 to millions, but 75 seemed to be a rough median. As we gave directions upon arriving at the park we asked them to predict which habitat type (lawn vs. other plants) would have the most bugs. They predicted other plants.
After giving everyone a chance to see what all the groups caught, we answered questions about some of the more interesting species and had the kids release their specimens. Back in the classroom we presented the compiled results, and continued a discussion of bugs that could have gone on indefinitely but brought us to the end of the school day. This general format can be modified and adapted to a variety of locations and groups of organisms. Such experiences give life to a range of concepts from habitat and biodiversity to mimicry, life history, anatomy and physiology, and other lessons that cannot be fully grasped from book study.