This week we are meeting the Orthopterans-grasshoppers and crickets. We are learning about the differences between the two groups, as well as how Orthopterans differ in general from other insects. The Weta Cricket from New Zealand is the largest cricket out there. It's about as big as your hand and weighs as much as three mice! We also watched a neat National Geographic video about how locusts know when to swarm. Locust swarms can do incredible damage (they eat everything, even clothes off the line). In Africa they have learned that if you light big fires, the smoke will confuse the insects, causing them to drop to the ground. And then, of course, the people can eat them instead. We met some live short-horned grasshoppers and raced some house crickets. House crickets are friendly little brown things!
Our delicious projects this week are Cricket Flour Brownies (note the cricket flour came pre-ground; we did not make our own from the little house crickets!).
It's that magical time again in the late spring when fireflies (or lightning bugs) begin to emerge. They've passed the winter in their larval stage and now are ready to fly and find mates. The special light that fireflies emit when they flash is called bioluminescence. It is a cool, chemical reaction that is almost 100% energy efficient. Did you know that in some species even the eggs glow?
For some reason firefly populations are beginning to diminish. Scientists think it may be due to light pollution in urban areas, or perhaps pesticides. The Vanishing Firefly Project is an opportunity to participate in firefly counts so scientists can track the populations of these beautiful beetles. Visit their website to learn more about the project and see what you can do to help.
Check out our light art photos from class:
Science class at the Science Safari this week was all about growing plants. It's been a cool spring, so there is still time to get some veggies started - and that's just what we did! Only our seeds came in packages with amazing artwork on the front that could come to life! After downloading an app from PowerfulPlants.net, we could point our ipad camera at the picture, and the plant character would move and talk to us. The instructions for downloading the app are on the back of the seed packet. This is a great way to get kids interested in growing things. There is also a competition to design your own plant character. We hope some of our students give it a try! If you do, send us your character designs and we will post them outside the classroom.
We have more seeds available for sale at the Science Safari, so come get your garden growing!
Next week we are on to another seasonal topic: glow worms and fireflies! These fun little insects will be emerging soon in June.