The children from our Pre-K class, the Constructivists, recently made an astonishing discovery. Small insects were seen crawling from inside a painted tree branch that has adorned the art center for much of the year. Immediately, the young scientists began to speculate – “Are these stinging bugs?”, “They look like ants, but aren’t, are they?”, “How did they get in our branch?” “Will they hurt us?” Sam presented one theory: “They spray people and the spray will kill you.”
Heeding Sam’s warning, the children carefully gave the bugs some space but continued to wonder about them and how they came to McKendree. With Anthony’s guidance, the kids searched photos of similarly shaped insects online. The group was elated to learn that the visitors are termites. For most of a day, the children watched, asked questions, threw their ideas back and forth, and then began to form conclusions about the bugs.
“I think they were first eggs when we got the stick.”, “Yeah, they were eggs and then they climbed up.” “There are a lot in the stick because it is a big stick.” “That one is a female, see the wings?” “Do they have babies?”, “They have strong jaws to chew wood.” “They eat wood, that is why they are in our stick” “There are workers and soldiers.” “Be careful, the soldiers can spray you.” (back to Sam’s erroneous earlier statement). Although the adult/teacher/parent instinct might be to ditch the stick as quickly as possible, the possibilities for learning are so great that Anthony decided to wait and let the children do more observing, investigating, researching, and reflection before finding a more suitable home for the termites.
Thankfully, we have a wonderful “insect laboratory” on the roof where this kind of scientific inquiry can continue to nurture the children’s natural curiosity and innate desire to learn.