Excitement filled the air as pre-Kindergarten students at the Episcopal School of Dallas anxiously awaited the arrival of their new mystery pet.
In conjunction with a recent lesson on insects, teachers put together small displays of critters ready to hatch. The 4- and 5-year-old students paid close attention to future butterflies, ladybugs, and a third set of unidentified eggs.
As the moment of truth approached, the children studied hard and did their best to determine exactly what would come out of the unknown eggs. Some used magnifying glasses to try and get a better look. Guesses included yellow jackets, ants, and even mayflies. In mid-April, the true identity was revealed as praying mantises emerged from the eggs.
Students also tried to guess the exact number of insects that would hatch. Estimates ranged from one to one million. While school officials did not release an official mantis count, most estimates put the number somewhere within that range.
“It was really a fun way to bring the lessons to life for them,” teacher Meghan Derksen said. According to her, the project offered a unique way to teach insect anatomy. Students also learned about the life cycle of butterflies and how a chrysalis is different than a moth’s cocoon.
“It’s also fun when you are 4 and can say ‘chrysalis,’ ” Derksen added.
Fellow teacher Ann Carter said all of the students were very well-behaved around the insects. On some occasions, she would put one of the displays in the middle of the room for all to enjoy. The class would inevitably get very quiet as the young learners intently focused on the small glass tanks.
“The kids learned when they observed to be careful. They couldn’t ‘tap tap’ on the glass,” Carter said. “They were very respectful and knew that there was a delicate insect inside.”
Surprisingly, none of the kids expressed fears about being around so many insects. Many students enjoyed pointing out ladybugs or spiders during recess. Some thought nothing of digging up earthworms, prompting teachers to remind them that they should “leave nature with nature.”
“They really enjoyed this, but I did not,” joked Derksen, who is not a fan of bugs. Luckily for her, Carter handled most of the insect caring duties, despite her own apprehensions.
As each set of insects came to life, the teachers led their classes outside for another big release. Derksen and Carter did their best to ensure that the newly freed creatures would move on far away from their classrooms.
Now that all of the insects have hatched, the pre-K world’s attention has turned to dinosaurs, which will likely elicit just as much excitement.
According to Derksen and Carter, that’s part of the fun that comes from working with young kids.
“It’s exhausting, but it’s a good exhaustion,” Derksen said. “They also bring a lot of good energy too.”