Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Bugs

First let me say that I hate the title of this post—bugs. The scientist in me really dislikes the use of the word bugs as a broad classification for arthropods and other "creepy crawly" creatures. Here's a rundown on the classification system and where these organisms are found.
Domain - Eukarya / Kingdom - Animal / Phylum - Arthropod

Arthropods are composed of five classes of organisms--arachnids, insects, crustaceans, centipedes, and millipedes. Now, hemiptera is an order of insects known as "true bugs." Included in this order are stink bugs, cicadas, aphids, water striders and more. I know this is really picky, but the classes of arthropods are pretty amazing, and I hate to see them all lumped together.

That said, bugs is the colloquial term for these critters, so I'll defer on this usage just for today's trio of books on BUGS!

cicada ghosts

Haunted skins
to the rough bark
of the hackberry
and farther up
where I can't
ghosts are

The poem above is a perfect segue into the book Bugs: Poems About Creeping Things. The first thing you'll notice upon picking it up is the small trim size--perfect for the subject matter. The poems beg to be shared aloud, with a number of the selections (seven of them!) written for two voices. They are clever and witty and seem to share some inside jokes with young readers. Many of the situations are preposterous, making them all the more fun to consider. Here are two short poems.

Web sparkle
on the lawn
like diamond
at dawn.

Shiny droplets--
small oases--
beckon spiders
to their places.

Silently they
look and lurk.

Time now for
spider work.
Poems © David Harrison. All rights reserved.

Altogether you will find 40 short, rhyming poems in this volume that will delight children and adults alike.

Hey There, Stink Bug!, written by Leslie Bulion and illustrated by Leslie Evans, is a collection containing 19 poems, a helpful glossary of scientific terms, poetry notes that describe the form of the poems, and suggestions for additional resources. Here's a poem on the much maligned dung beetle.
Dung Beetle
by Leslie Bulion

Hard-working scarab
sculpts a tasty ball for grub
Beetle rock and roll
saves the world from dancing
knee-deep in elephant doo.
The terrific thing about the poems in this collection is that they are accompanied by factual information. Here's an excerpt about the dung beetle.
Dung beetles belong to a family of wide-bodied beetles called scarab beetles. Scarabs are often very colorful.

Dung beetles eat chunks of animal manure, called dung. Some dung beetles pat the dung into balls. They kick-roll the balls away and may even take them underground. Dung beetles are quite a clean-up crew!
And here's what you'll find in the poetry notes about this poem.
The tanka is a Japanese poem form even older than the haiku. It has five lines and no more than thirty-on syllables. Its ideas are usually from nature. Some of the words in a tanka can have more than one meaning in the poem. When you read a tanka, it can seem like two haiku poems—the middle line is part of each haiku.
Poem and Text © Leslie Bulion. All rights reserved.

Evans' watercolor-washed linoleum prints offer vibrant views of the insects, nicely complementing Bulion's poems and text.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Bugs Up Close, written by by Diane Swanson and photographed by Paul Davidson, is an oversized book with close-up photos of a wide range of insects in all their glory. After introducing and defining insects, Swanson turns to their features and behavior and highlights bodies, exoskeletons, spiracles, legs, wings, mouthparts, eyes, antennae, hair, signals, eggs, metamorphosis, colors, shapes, weapons, size, and success.

Here's how the book opens.
You are sitting under a tree when something tickles your toes. You brush it off, and the tiny critter crawls away through the grass. Then you notice a green bug hopping by and see yellow wings fluttering above your head.
Creeping, jumping, flying—little creatures seem to be everywhere. But not all of them are insects. The insects are the ones that have three main body sections. Most insects also have antennae, wings, and six legs (three on each side).
Text © Diane Swanson. All rights reserved.

Swanson has filled this book with fascinating bits about insects in a most accessible manner. Readers will find pronunciation for terms such as proboscis, spiracles and metamorphosis provided in parentheses. The text is concisely written and easy to comprehend. A table of contents, brief glossary, and index are also included. Paired with the incredible photographs supplied by Davidson, this book provides a thorough introduction to the world of insects.

Perfect Together
Pairing Harrison's more light-hearted look at bugs with Bulion's more serious is a good way to begin. From there I would consider the body parts and special features described in the poems and pair them with related text from BUGS UP CLOSE. Across these three titles there isn't much you can't learn or imaging about bugs!

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • The Roach World site from Discovery Kids lets kids explore life through the eyes of a cockroach.
  • The Understanding Evolution web site has a comprehensive section on arthropods entitled The Arthropod Story.
  • At the University of Illinois you'll find a large collection of insect illustrations.
  • If you want to use live animals in your class, check out these resources on using stick insects in the classroom.
  • Kids can play a game called Monster Bugs at Scholastic's Magic School Bus site. Given a drawer full of bug parts, kids put them together to create bugs found in nature or new bugs of their own.
  • Orkin has some bug and insect games for kids.

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