Today part of my library became a laboratory (a LIBoratory, if you will). About a month ago, my assistant brought in a praying mantis egg/cocoon/pod that she bought on ebay. We put the brown, papery blob in an aquarium lined with dirt. We also threw in a plant that I had purchased at the 99 cent store and was infested with something grody. Food for a mantis, we thought. After a while, we forgot about the aquarium (apart from the occasional, "I think they're dead" comment from me).
This morning, I heard a cry from across the room.
"They've hatched Mizz Murphy! They've hatched!"
I thought, "Crap! What's hatched? Do we have bugs in here?" I attribute this reaction in part to the fact that the boy's voice was high-pitched and frantic.
When I walked over to the aquarium, swarms of mosquito-sized praying mantises (manti?) covered every inch of the glass, the plant, the dirt. It was really exciting. And then, it was scary. What the hell was I going to do with all of these? My assistant, the mantis expert, was home with her feverish baby. Luckily her son was among the squealing onlookers.
"Call your mom! She'll be so excited." Well, she would be excited, but mostly I hoped she could come help me deal with the onslaught of creepy crawlies.
True blue as always, she showed up an hour later with a million small plastic containers and lids. We separated most of the babes into their own containers to save them from cannibalism. We put multiple subjects (as the tech coordinator called them) into some containers to see if they would eat each other. Some stayed in the tank because of our cross-eyed fatigue after several hours of bug corralling (and also we ran out of containers).
Anyway, the point is that THE KIDS WENT CRAZY. Kids have been reading about bugs, finding websites about bugs, talking about bugs, and inspecting bugs all day. Some of them even read the encyclopedia. Voluntarily. That is serious business.
I don't really know what will come of this. Will they live or die (the mantids, not the kids)? What will I feed them? Where will this lead? Whatever happens, it was a great day for teaching. Their faces and little motor-mouths, impossible questions and false expertise (this time I'm talking about the kids) made my day something entirely different than what I expected at 5:40 this morning. This is definitely why I keep coming back.