In Opal 2 this year, the "big idea" we are studying is the concept of interdependence. This idea of each living thing having its place in a system that relies on it and that it relies on can be studied through almost anything. We have begun to study it through the world of insects. Insects presented themselves on the hands and in the jars of Opal 2 students almost daily for the first month of school with a great deal of interest and excitement. We capitalized on that energy.
Currently, we have focused our work with some big questions: What does the world look like from the perspective of an insect? What role do insects play in the world and what wisdom can we gain from a bug?
We have made terrariums and cared for bugs offering them a carefully thought out home. It is so amazing to watch the students any time they open their terrariums. They themselves are transformed by the relationships they have developed with these bugs. They are clearly fascinated and excited by the movements and changes they notice in these tiny creatures. The terrariums are places for real scientific observation, but they have also led us into a world of imagination. Many students commented on the cozy spaces they were creating which they would love to curl up in or the climbing/playing spaces which would be fun to play on. One student though, was bent over scrunching his hands and eyes. When I inquired what he was doing, he said, “I am trying to shrink myself so I can go in there.”
His words opened a whole new world for us. What would it be like if we could shrink ourselves down and enter into these terrariums. What would we do, what would we learn? Through some imaginary exercises we have ‘become bugs’ to think about how they might spend their day and what they might need to think about. We acted out what it might have been like for them to be taken from one place carried in a strange crowded, flying container and then landing in a new place with different surroundings than they were used to. In delving into their world, we are changing our perspective through our learning and our imagination; we have nurtured empathy for these tiny creatures.
After watching a dvd called Microcosmos, we responded through drawings and words. We also tried on some insect movements to see what it might feel like to move like a bug. This idea of perspective is a pathway to creating empathy and understanding. We also are offering opportunities to feel awe and wonder. Bugs are things many people don’t notice so much, sometimes dispose of and often think of as pests. But looked at closely and studied, each and every bug is complex and fascinating. Students in Opal 2 are beginning to find this out through careful observational drawing of insects and creating insects. We will continue to delve into the fascinating world of insects through research groups where students will focus in on one insect to really get to know the adaptations that bug has developed to exist in its particular ecosystem.
So where will this all lead? We don’t know exactly, but we certainly will be using insects to get to know the complexity of an individual species and the complexity and interrelatedness of its ecosystem. We will also play with the idea of adaptation. Why there are so many varieties of certain species and why they are in the habitats they are in. This idea that living things are particularly suited to play a role in a certain environment is a big idea we will encounter this year along with the many relationships those living things have with what is around them.
While children work, we listen to them. Their ideas come pouring out as they play. One day a group of students was using clay in the studio to create a world for frogs. As they created they imagined, theorized, and provoked each other. An idea came up which led to a conversation. Ace said,”What I don’t get is why there are leopard frogs, poison dart frogs etc., but there are just people.” The small group talked and talked about this idea. This pondering, truly, has a whole world inside it. It will come back to the whole class as we go deeper into the idea of species, habitat and adaptation. Who knows, it may even allow us a look at understanding ourselves and each other better. Where do people fit into this idea of adaptation and habitat. How are we the same and how are we different from the bugs we are getting to know so well?