Call them wood lice or pill bugs or potato bugs or sow bugs - all of those names will pull up a similar picture on Google. Roly poly is the name the children seem to prefer for this tiny bug that eats rotting vegetation and curls itself into a ball when threatened. With children digging them up and carrying them around, they must feel threatened a lot! But they are such good sports.
Roly polies have been especially important this year to the children in our classroom. Perhaps part of the reason is our extended outdoor classroom time which allows more opportunities to find the bugs, collect them, then build a community around the activity. Who is the chief collector? Who helps? Who carries the jar? Who decides when a jar is needed? Who brings them into the classroom? Who remembers to put them back outside?
Roly polies are a terrific example of how learning takes place without any teaching. I have attempted to list below all of the skills that I have observed being used to handle these tiny terrestrial crustaceans.
1.) small motor - it takes a well-coordinated, yet gentle, pincer grip to pick up a roly poly.
2.) visual skills - you have to see them crawling through the dirt and mulch.
3.) bravery - you have to be "ok" with them crawling over your skin.
4.) observation - "That's a roly poly!"
5.) visual - "This one is little and this one is big."
6.) estimating and counting - How many do you think are in the jar? How many are actually there?
7.) love and respect for other living things.
8.) social - working as a team to collect and study them.
9.) language - isopod, pill bug, sow bug, terrestrial crustacean, armadillidiidae, wood lice, moist, damp, rotting vegetation...
10.) classification - pill bugs and sow bugs are all members of the wood lice family, but only pill bugs roll into a ball.
11.) observation - they have 14 legs (or 7 pairs) and we find lots of roly polies under pieces of wood.
I'll stop there but you could probably can add a couple zillion more...
This week we will discuss what we will need in order to have a living collection of roly polies in the classroom.