Saturday, May 30, 2009

Worm Science

So, one of the perks of being a elementary school teacher is really cool science units. Today, I performed an emergency bowel diversion surgery on a silkworm. The patient is now resting comfortably in the ICU. Wierd? Nope - I just teach second grade.

The wonders of life are as fascinating to me as they are to my students. Ricco and I stare and stare at the worms, watching them, thinking about them, asking questions about them, wondering about them, like we're 7. No joke. You can walk into our rooms any day and find us happily shoveling poop out of the bottoms of the cages, cutting rotten leaf paste into bite size bits (so that they won't choke), or saying 'Oh! Look at that one! His skin is coming off again!' Are we insane? Nope - doing this opens up our natural, child-like curiosity for life.

In fact, though, I bet you would be equally as fascinated by the silkworms as we are! They are absolutely fascinating. For example, did you know:

*to spin into a cocoon, a silkworm uses a single strand of silk that, when unraveled, measures 1.5 kilometers in length?

*that to get silk, cocoons are boiled and softened (with worm still inside), and unraveled, all 1.5 kilometers, by a special machine (or, before machines, by the hands of young slave children)?

*that trade on the Silk Road date back to as early as 100 BC and was a significant factor in the development of civilizations such as China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Rome? It can be said that, in several respects, the Silk Road (the harvest and trade of this one fabric) helped lay the foundations for the modern world.

And we're growing them right in room 109. Come one, come all.

Now, we'll do nothing so intentionally cruel as to boil them alive, but we have realized that we will make a mistake or two as we learn more about these delicate creatures.

Lesson number 1: Silkworms should not eat leaves which are not a part of their natural diet (i.e. Sakura leaves from our very own playground). If they do, they will go into a drug-induced state of paralysis and exhibit symptoms such as abmormally swollen heads, orange vomit, low vital signs, and lethargy. In other words, the next morning it will look like the aftermath of a bad frat party (minus the bras and panties on the floor).

Lesson number 2: Silkworms are remarkably resilient. Upon returning to the classroom to find many of our silkworms passed out in sakura-leaf comas, we nursed them back to health with clean cages and proper food (of course, cutting it into small pieces to prevent choking). All but one silkworm bounced back within a day, and albeit slowly, to their full vigor and eating power again. The poor dead one, though, spent a day lying on its side, resisting moving upon being prodded, and was about to go in the trash when, the next morning, I miraculously found him on his feet again.

Lesson number 3: Silkworm situations produce some of the best lines (Ricco) and life-saving situations (doctor Wendy). Ricco's winning remark when I gleefully e-mailed him that silkworm 59 had returned from the dead: "Yeah, I called Jesus - he pulled some strings. Silk strings..." Wendy's winning surgical skills: silkworm 59, although alive, was in no shape for excreting the waste that was hanging around his backside, so I carefully put my fingers around his little bottom, gently and patiently massaging it all out. Today he was even eating again.

A great team? Yes. Crazy? Nope - just grade 2 teachers, living the dream.

1 comment:

Tera said...

awesome post, now where are the pictures?? ;)