Oh! what a day! what a day! A part of last week was spent frantically figuring out who could come help us with identifying insects on the farm. I spread the word on my Facebook page and got a few names but actually I should have just explored my ATREE connections first. By Sunday, we had Seena! A friend who is also an entomologist with ATREE and an expert on dung beetles. Here is more about her work( http://www.atree.org/user/100)
Roshni and I designed and quickly put up a poster by Monday- 2 days before the visit and Roshni and Jalaja drummed up the excitement and energy level amongst the kids.
As usual , every farm visit, before 9 AM we scramble for last minute arrangements. The buses get in by 8:30 and the rest of the half hour is spent collecting items to carry. Everyone runs around and I keep observing how hard teachers work to make sure things move. Once in a while we should all sit down and congratulate ourselves on keeping things together and still having sane minds!
Anyhow, we are getting better at this and in this trip we had almost everything we needed.
We only had class 5 kids with us. Laksh decided to stay back this week and Roshni, Sreeja, Seena and I reached the farm by 9 AM. We had an hour, lots of enthusiasm, and some gardening tools, and plastic buckets for watering with us. Seena had carried vials with spirits, her sweepnets for a show and tell with kids, a small spade, and forceps. I had briefed her on what the visit would be about. Largely focusing on role of insects in a farm and indirectly in our lives.
Seena gets introduced on the way to the farm, but the kids already know thanks to the poster and Roshni informing them. Seena asks what all they have observed already on the farm- termites, ants, beetle . As if on cue a beetle appears digging its way through on the sand and Seena bends down to pick one up and show the kids. What do they see? where are its wings? what is it preying on? who eats the beetle? the role of food chain?
Then Seena sends the kids on different trails in groups offering her equipment of Petri dish, forceps and telling them where to look and what to look for. every other minute we heard shouts of "I found something! ", "Come , Seena, take a look" from groups of children. We saw several kinds of beetles, earthworms, shirt horned grasshoppers and even spiders.
It was fantastic! The kids went from "ewww", to "soooo cute", to "awesome" in the beginning to searching for them under rocks and in dung cakes, learning the names of the species, holding them with care, capturing them to observe and marvelling at their role in nature. All in one hour!
Seena generously gave away her spirit filled vials to kids to take back some of the insects.
Roshni had already thought how this learning will get documented in class. She got them to write and draw their observations.
Seena later helps me list down all what the kids discovered and saw:
1) 5 types of butterflies: Common Jezebel, Common Rose, Crimson Rose, Lesser Glass Blue and Tawny Coster
2) Two species of Ground beetle (Family: Carabidae including the yellow and black beetle that was collected)-
3) Darkling beetle (Family: Tenebrionidae)- Many individuals of 2 species.
4) Tiny wasp carrying a moth larva - who dropped his larva when we crowded around it.
5) Two species of short horned grasshoppers
6) Four species of ants and a trail of ants carrying larvae
9) Hairy caterpillar of a moth
10 ) Three species of millipedes
11) Four species of spiders
12) A dwarf honey bee
13) A mating pair of robberfly. They were flying together from leaf to leaf!
14) And the Mexican beetle ; also called the invasive beetle , introduced to India from Mexico for the biological control of the invasive weed Parthenium
I couldn't stay back in school to sample the Ragi Ladoos cooked in the community lunch. But kudos to Ashwini and Jalaja who held the fort on ragi dishes! I only got to feast on the picture! But I hear they were YUMMM.