An invertebrate garden and …

It feels like summer will be over before we know it! Many of you—those who actually had a summer off that is—are busy preparing your classrooms and projects for the coming school year. In the summer Early Years column, An Invertebrate Garden, Peggy Ashbrook described how to attract invertebrates to an outdoor area for later study. Planting flowers to attract butterflies is something we’d all love to do, but be honest, how many of you will be collecting some of our less lovely invertebrates for study?
Even if you don’t have an outdoor space suitable for gardening or invertebrate attraction, there are still many preparations to be made and long-term projects to dream up. Tell us your plans for your classroom below.

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6 Responses to An invertebrate garden and …

  1. Gardening south of The South says:

    KEV – Here in central FL it is too hot to do much gardening yet, but I want to pass along a couple of terrific resources for gardening. First is your local or state Native Plant Society. Native animals have co-evolved with the plants native to your area, and these folks may be of great help. Another great resource is your local University Co-operative Extension Service, although ours is not as pro-native as I wish they were. Hope this might do some good somehow. Suzanne

  2. Planting gardens in Aug/Sept says:

    Our school has a large courtyard in the middle of our building. We have a pond and a 4 or 5 steps that lead to a small concrete platform. The prior principal did nothing with it but a group of us got together and decided that we needed to make it into an outdoor classroom. Clean-up of the area happened at the end of the school year so nothing has been planted. We did get the fish pond up and running with some plant life and fish. I read the article about the invertebrate garden and loved it! I am going to be team teaching 1st grade this year and I will teaching science in addition to social studies, health and math. I really want to make use of the outdoor garden. Do you have any suggestions for plantings at the beginning of the school year? i live in the south so we have a lot of warm months left! Any ideas would really help! KEV

  3. Indoor invertebrate zoo says:

    I have always concentrated on studying invertebrates in the early years since the primary grades students are so into animals at this time, and they focus on vertebrate animals in their everyday life. Invertebrates are also inexpensive and easy to care for. I keep terrariums of Pillbugs, various types of earthworms, hermit crabs, Bessbugs, mealworms and crickets. I also have butterflies and caterpillars. I keep crayfish and shrimp in an aquarium. Some years, I also include ladybugs, termites and spiders. The students compare and contrast the bodies and behavior of the creatures. They come to know what an “arthropod” is and the different groups of arthropods. Exoskeletons saved after an animal molts is looked at under a stereomicroscope. The caterpillar molting is especially interesting under a simple Brock scope. Students learn the word exoskeleton and endoskeleton and can give examples of each. I have insect x-rays that students match to the actual animal photos to reinforce that invertebrates do not have skeletons. We do activities designed by various companies such as AIMS and Carolina Biologicals company. In response to KEV, I too live in the south. I have planted orange-flowered milkweed, passionvines, Lantana and Pentas to attract butterflies. The orange-flowered milkweed attracts more butterflies than the yellow. Parsley, dill and fennel are good host plants for the caterpillars. You can also get a “Butterfly Bush,” and Dwarf Firebush. If you order ladybugs, also get aphids and release both into the garden. You can add earthworms and Pillbugs, but give them places to hide such as rocks, underbrush and dead leaves. Susan B

  4. Planting gardens says:

    Kev, one resource that might help is I’d also check out the National Wildlife Federation’s backyard habitat program: The Summer issue of S&C also had an article about native plant gardening called “A Garden of Learning” (free, but registration required). Search for it at the NSTA Science Store:

  5. Planting gardens continued says:

    KEV–Lucky you to have a garden space at school! I think there may still be time to plant some butterfly caterpillar food plants to attract those species that overwinter, or encourage them to visit in the Spring. I’m not sure which species do that in your area but you might begin with planting collards (for Cabbage Whites), parsley and fennel (for Black Swallowtails) and milkweed (for Monarchs)–plants that may be winter-hardy in your area. Happy growing! Peggy

  6. Frederic says:

    Me and my wife also love gardening to fill our spare time. I think your idea to create a garden room in your school is very good. You can start by planting flowers to attract butterflies. Crops like parsley usually also favored a caterpillar. So start planting what was easily treated. Good luck…

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