Apr 22, 2008

Authentic Learning

It started when Caity decided that she likes ladybugs. This proclamation followed a long time of HATING all bugs. In an effort to show her not to be afraid, I decided to close the year with a unit on ladybugs. Fast forward a few weeks through some pathetic attempts to get Caity excited about the little red creature, to a neighbor capturing one of her own. This well meaning five year old did not know much about them; therefore her ladybug was captured in a small empty container. Surprisingly, it did survive the night and was released back into nature.
The next day Caity was beyond thrilled when she found her own ladybug with the name of Melacarti. Sister shared in the excitement and dropped the ladybug which quickly flew away. For the rest of the hour Caity could be found sobbing and singing in the backyard about Melacarti. We knew she was dramatic, but I did not know she would feel so deeply about an insect.
I started thinking I could use this to my advantage. This morning she was still mad at her sister for losing her friend, so I seized this learning opportunity. We started with some internet research on the bug. She wanted to know how to take of her next bug better. Then she started a poem and song to add to her book she is working on for the remainder of this year.
We went outside to play and I started a ladybug hunt. Caity was not convinced that I would ever find one. Well, we found three, but all flew away before being captured. Finally, Melecarti 2 was found, and Caity went into action. She placed the wet paper towel at the bottom of the container with air holes with a soaked raisin and some (what we think are) aphids on a leaf. During the bug hunt we talked about the life cycle and stages of Melacarti’s life.
(This is where I knew that I was a homeschooling mom.) As the rain shower came over us, we all began to pack up our things and head for cover. Colin dropped his shoe (for the um-teenth time) and I found it! I saw a larva stage ladybug. I got so excited. I quickly called Caity over for the container and I tried to scoop him up. I was a bit too exuberant, because I squished him. I picked up the remains to show Caity and saw the yellow excretion they use for a warning signal to a predator. (This is when I even surprised myself.) I rubbed the yellow goo on my finger and took a whiff! It really stank. I then offered Caity a smell. I refrained from tasting it. What better way to understand an insect’s defense then to experience it first hand. I am only sorry that I killed the little guy, and we didn’t get the chance to see all of the stages.
For those that know me best, this is out of character. The pure excitement of some real life learning got me so worked up that my ‘prissy’ side left for a few moments. The learning has not stopped yet. Caity handed her brother the container, and he shook it as he walked around the house. She witnessed another defense in which they pretend to be dead. The ladybug is now walking and soaking up the water in the towel. Melacarti will be released after the rain shower subsides.
Now Caity is so excited to share with Dad what she learned today in school. That is a wonderful by-product of this adventure. What a great day!