Friday, May 30, 2008

Science Friday

As a homeschooler, I am often asked about what curricula I use. For example, how do I teach science? For this subject, I am amazed that anyone can think that science can be found in a book exclusively, particularly a textbook. We use "real" books from the library and things we find in our environment mostly. I decided to make Science Friday a regular feature of my blog, inspired by one of my favorite radio shows Talk of the Nation: Science Friday and post something we've studied that week. This week: Cicadas.

Brood XIV of the seventeen year cicada is here, and while feeding chickens, William discovered them crawling out of a stump of a tree.

Once we started looking, we found they were everywhere.

Here is one shedding its brown nymph shell to become
an adult cidada with wings.

As it emerges, the cidada is white at first, with very red eyes.

William would like to comment that with the black spots, it looks very much like General Grievious (Grievous, actually but he insists it is Grievious) of Star Wars.

We found them in various stages of emergence. Here Daisy is investigating a nymph that has just come up out of the ground and is rock wall climbing to find a good place to begin its transformation. Next to it, is one that has begun splitting it's shell.

When they first come out, they are very white. An unnamed teen in our house said they were gross and they looked naked.

Having successfully gotten out of its shell, the cicada now sits and dries its wings. I wonder what process occurs to change it from the white cicada above, to the finished black cicada below.

This cicada we took back to the house to watch it "hatch". It is a very slow process. The cicadas seem to be very vunerable at this stage, as they can't really move once they start the final process. We found that the chickens loved eating them. In fact, did you know that cicadas are eaten by humans? In case you are inspired to cook up a batch, I found many recipes on the web. I can just see it now. Mom, what's for dinner? Cicada tacos. Right. Perhaps if I were starving and it was like, oh, 1100 A.D. and Kroger wasn't down the road with perfectly good chicken breasts all cleaned and ready to cook.

From the recipe: "Before you start your cooking you need to remove all the hard parts: "Before you start your cooking you need to remove all the hard parts: wings, legs and head. These parts don’t contain much of the meat either but may be very sharp, so its best to get rid of them. Right. Now, I don't eat things I have to coax out, like oysters, crab legs, etc. Call me spoiled, but I just don't visualize myself pulling the wings off of live insects and popping them in the oven on a cookie sheet for a tasty treat or frying them up in a pan. Gag. I did find a recipe for chocolate covered cicadas, which maybe would be a possibility. Nah, why spoil a good thing?

Back to science lessons, we downloaded some good diagrams and information from and spent the day hearing from William, "MOM. COME LOOK!" He determined that he could not climb his favorite tree without squishing cicadas, or really even walk in the grass. The most amazing thing to think about for me is that this variety of cicada laid the eggs for this brood before my kids were born, before we moved here, and when I was newly married. All done seventeen years ago on days when I was busy in my life, unknowing that 20 miles from where I lived, insects were busy preparing a science lesson for me and a little boy not yet born.


pita-woman said...

I always loved running around collecting the empty shells when I was Wlms age. At that time, I knew nothing about the bug that had vacated it, and would've probably fainted (much like your chickens) had I ever seen one at that age.
I'm with you on the subject of eating them... why ruin perfectly good chocolate by dipping a bug in it?

Kristina said...

We discovered them yesterday, too. If you've got United Streaming, they've got a great video on there about them.

beeguy said...

Where do you think the people who discovered everything that’s now in a science book figured it out? One day maybe public schools will learn to “think outside the textbook” too.
Here in Indiana we had a "brood X" of cicadas a few years back. We also collected the shells; we found that the barbs on the shells legs still stick to things really people hair and the back of people’s shirts etc. :D
Some of our friends fried some up too, they said they tasted pretty good but one of them ended up at the doctor to remove a wing that didn't get removed before cooking. I guess it got stuck in her gums like a giant splinter? Ouch! Needless to say, though I was offered one while visiting I had to decline since it wasn't allowed on my strict diet at the time, such a pity.


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