All twenty five hands rocket towards the ceiling.
“That’s their exoskeleton. All arthropods have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies. ‘Exo’ means outside.”
This week our Garden Science classes built on what they already knew about bees to learn about the common characteristics of insects. Unlike other arthropods (including insect "cousins" crustaceans, arachnids and centipedes and millipedes), insects all have antennae, wings, six legs, and three main body segments. Our classes were amazed to find out that ants can have wings and insects breathe through slits in their abdomens. The highlight of the classes were definitely our insect cases—extensive collections of butterflies, moths, dragonflies, bees, wasps, hornets, beetles, earwigs, flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers and crickets. In some classes, students went back to their desks to fetch notebooks so they could write down their observations. One fourth grader complained that she hadn’t had enough time to complete her research!
After looking at the insect cases, the classes learned basic insect anatomy and the vital roles insects play in living systems. They will have a chance to continue their investigations during their class field trip in May: we’ll build on this lesson in the garden, observing insects live and in action.