Inspired Lesson: INSECTS
We had a stinkbug in the kitchen. It almost would have gone unnoticed, but Matthew had been waiting on this little guy to show up for about a week now. Lately, Matthew’s been into his exploration vest. It’s a little vest that comes equipped with all kinds of tools, like a lantern, bug jar, tweezers, magnifying glass, and compass that clip onto various ring attachments. He’s put in on probably four times in the past week, tweezers in hand, searching the baseboards for insect intruders to seize, and investigate, and squish onto my floor -- to no avail. But on this particular day, one very lucky insect had finally made it onto the counter. In seconds flat, Matthew was on the tippiest of his toes, magnifying the living, breathing crap out of that thing as it crawled over a plastic ladle.
So, we went with it. I took out my camera and I asked him questions about the bug. How many legs did it have? How fast did it move? What color were it’s wings? Matthew picked up the spoon and seemed surprised at how the insect wouldn’t fall even when he wasn’t ‘very, especially careful.’ Then he whipped the spoon from side to side, until the thing lost it’s grip and tumbled with a few little clicks onto it’s back by Matthew’s feet. You can probably imagine what went down over the next fifteen minutes and how “stink juice” made it’s way out of the bug and - yup, onto my floor.
I have to be honest, this week was a little difficult. Scarlett cried like a maniac from about this time last week until about twenty minutes ago, and what little time I did have away from her was spent on the computer doing research on how in heck to home pre-school a three year old on a budget of about negative nothing. Luckily for me, inspiration just kind of fell out of the sky and into my lap because otherwise, there wouldn’t be a post today. And that’s good, because a very large part of this project is just that: Letting the lessons come to you.
As luck would have it, one of the books we’d picked from the library last week was a little treasure called THE VERY UGLY BUG by Liz Pichon. I got it as much for Scarlett as I had for Matthew because of the bold and geometric illustrations, painted with the kind of nice, vivid color pallet that babies really enjoy. It also had nice, large, wide-spaced print, which was beneficial for Matthew - who’s learning through the *Stepping Stones Together* program to point to words as they’re being read. The first twenty-seven times we read this thing, I took mostly from it just a cute, little lesson about self-esteem. It wasn’t until after our little moment of inspiration in the kitchen that I realized the entire darn book was just as much a very real lesson in tiny science! The Very Ugly Bug goes from buggy friend to buggy friend asking why they look so much nicer than she, and each bug explains the reason for why they have the features they do -- to hide from the birds, so they don’t turn into a tasty bug snack. When the Ugly Bug tries to disguise herself, she becomes easy pray and a bird finds her immediately -- Turns out her being so ugly IS her defense mechanism.
We also had a very old, non-fiction chapter book about insects lying around. I popped it open one day when Matthew wasn’t around so that I could take from it a few easy-to-get concepts and think of ways to turn them into lessons. I didn’t have to! Matthew plopped himself on the bed with me and took over, turning the pages to the few black and white illustrations there were, asking “What’s that!… What’s that!…. Oh, what’s that! That’s ugly -- Hey, just like the very ugly bug in my book!!” And on page sixty-four, guess what they had? THE STINK BUG, in all of it’s ugly, stinkin' glory.
Blogger Idea of the Week:
A Sense-ational Read!
Dr. Madeline Boskey, an author and editor of books herself, posted an idea on her blog over at Mad for Reading about bringing the stories we read to our children to life. A few of her suggestions were lighting a vanilla scented candle when reading a book about baking cookies, or saving a book about the ocean to read during bath time, and my favorite (and one I will definitely be doing soon) is setting up a makeshift tent and reading a story about camping by flashlight. Does that not sound like the coolest story-time, ever?
We made our own Very Ugly Bug, using an empty toilet paper roll, a piece of construction paper to decorate with various camouflaging techniques and wrap around, popsicle sticks, an empty cereal bag and various decorative craft items. The idea of making a bug out of a toilet paper roll is not new (I remember making an ant in second grade), but we tailored the idea to the book. In THE VERY UGLY BUG, our little protagonist tries to disguise herself with the features of her friends: tying berries to her antennae so that she’ll be able to hide in the berries; sticking leaves on her back so that she’ll be able to hide in the leaves like another friend, and using flower petals as wings to look like another. We colored our bug different colors we thought of that were in nature; then glued pom-poms to it so that it could hide in the berries, and gave it cereal bag wings, and “teeny-tiny eyes” which were another big part of the story. We also counted six legs for our insects, as we learned that all insects, no matter how different they look from one another all have in common that they have six legs. The coolest part? At the back of the tube, you can press the bottom of the popsicle wings where they overlap, and the wings flap!
On another day we made a few pattern-pillars, using a popsicle stick and colored pom-poms that we glued to the sticks in patterns.
On another, we did the same thing, but using our fingertip prints in patterns of different finger-paint colors. We put it on the fridge, as if we were done with it. Then, the next day, we transformed it from a caterpillar to butterfly by adding “wings” with his handprints!
To implement our "Sense-ational Read," Matthew acted out the story with his own Very Ugly Bug, as we read it aloud to his baby sister. We also set her musical swing to the Nature Sounds setting, so that we had bugs chirping and birds singing in the background!
Words like hypotheses, prediction and discovery actually aren’t new to him, although I doubt he could tell you what they actually mean. Both Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train on PBS use these words in every episode. It was awesome to be able to apply it to our experience with the Stink Bug! When I asked him questions about what he saw on the Stink Bug under the magnifying glass, he’d tell me and then I would ask him why. Whenever he came up with an explanation, (even when they were completely off the mark) I’d high-five him and say, “Whoa, what a great hypothesis!!” I don’t know if it helps, but whenever I can I try to use mini-scientific terms like these so that he learns to apply them to what he knows. For instance, if we’re looking for something in his toybox -- we’re exploring his toybox for that toy; if he comes to me saying, “Mommy, look! When I bring puppy’s shadow in front of my shadow, I can’t see it anymore.” I’ll say, “What a cool discovery!”
Another idea I'd like to start with him is to create a field journal for him. Matthew LOVES taking a little notebook with him to places like the doctor's office or grocery store, so that he can doodle while he's bored. He's not able to realistically translate what he sees onto paper yet, but I think I'll buy him his own notebook so that the next time he sees something that captures his curiosity, he can doodle it into a little field journal of his own. What do you guys think?
*I was going to attach our Stepping Stones Together review to the end of this, but because there is only so much a momma can do in between loads of laundry, I’ll be saving it for tomorrow.
For anyone joining in on the project, I’d LOVE to hear what you have to say! What ideas could you come up with to tie into an insect theme? Or, has there ever been a time your kids have stumbled into something that caught their curiosity, and you were able to turn it into a learning opportunity? Please, share! I could use all of the help I can get! :-) PLUS, any idea or project left for me will be tried out by Matthew and I for the following week's post, with a link back to your blog and credit for the awesome idea. (Traffic score!)