Back to school

321337_164792200264953_1175651_nThe first day of school is always momentous, whether it’s your first as a student or your thirty-first as a teacher.

 

Jemicy’s first day of school this year was a scorcher. The few moments we spent exploring outside required short hops from one shady spot to the next. Still, those spots held the magic of new discoveries.

Under logs: Dozens of nightcrawlers the size of small snakes -“Worm City!”

 

In the milkweed bed: “1,2,3,4…… 15 monarch caterpillars!”

monarch caterpillar

Along the bank of the tiny pond that the wet summer left below the soccer field: “A frog! Tadpoles! Dragonflies!” For licorice lovers, there was plenty of Perilla to sample.

Under a rock: “Weird bug!”

Platydracus maculosus
Platydracus maculosus

 

During recess, we sought shade under a small cherry tree. One person spotted something fuzzy on the ground – a desiccated caterpillar. This discovery quickly led to another unfamiliar caterpillar curled by a rock, then a leaf-like planthopper, a picture-winged fly, some foraging ants, and an orange-headed leafhopper – all under the sparse canopy of the cherry tree. Several of these discoveries turned out to be new species for our biodiversity checklist, including a new county record!

“This,” declared a new M Grouper, “must be the Tree of Life.”

The rest of the week delivered more new sensations: monarch butterflies emerged and flew in greater numbers than I ever recall seeing before; striped oakworm caterpillars were caught scurrying through the grass, praying mantises prowled along walls and shrubs, a tiny saddleback caterpillar hitched a ride into the classroom on a potted fern; sassafras leaves announced their fall color change; a toad shared space with potential dinner companions.

Such an auspicious beginning to a new school year, and every bit as memorable as a new lunchbox.

 

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