This is a guest post by Sarah Higman from Kids Activities Delivered . She’s sharing some wonderful tips to explore cicadas. Her post couldn’t come at a better time for my family because the cicadas are certainly making themselves known with their loud, almost vibrating trills today.
Making the Most out of Cicada Season
Most years when the weather is getting warmer, we start looking forward to being outside more. This year is different.Walking outside is now an assault on our eardrums. On particularly bad days it feels like your brain is vibrating inside your head.
They have arrived. And they have brought their friends.
For most of eastern Australia 2013/14 is a lucky year. Not for us, but for our friendly (albeit noisy) neighbours the Green Grocer Cicadas. They have a life cycle of six or so years, which means they spend almost six years underground, crawl out to destroy our eardrums for six weeks and then die.
For my four year old daughter, this year is wonderful. She is utterly fascinated with the insect making all that noise. Talking to parents around town their children are the same. At one of the local primary schools each lunch break is devoted to a cicada shell hunt. The mix of girls and boys will utalise a Tonka truck to hold their booty and proudly display their finds to their slightly horrified teacher. However that teacher got my attention (and probably my child in 2015) by putting her feelings about cicadas aside and using them as a teaching tool.
That is what I’m going to talk about today.
Cicadas are a fabulous resource for children. They are friendly – although they will sometimes mistake your arm for a tree branch and try to suck sap out of you. They are large and easily observed (if you can find them!) You can also do heaps of things with the cicada shells as well.
So you’ve found a live cicada
The trick to catching a cicada lies in its wings. Gently pinch the cicada at the back, making sure you keep its wings closed. Then gently pop it into a container for children to study. If that idea freaks you out, then have a look just after dusk for the new cicadas, they should be climbing up tree trunks.
- Ask children to draw what they see.
- Identify body parts
- Have a think about why (the Green Grocers) are green
- Turn the cicada gently upside down and look for its mouth (hint: it is the long brown straw like appendage)
- Look closely at its legs and in particular its feet
- Measure each cicada you find before releasing (or feeding to the chickens – my chickens love them!)
- Older kids can map out where they find batches of cicadas and try to work out which trees (if any) they prefer.
- Cook ‘em & eat ‘em – the University of Maryland has released a cicada cookbook packed with heaps of real recipes to try if you are brave, including Chocolate-Chip Trillers and El Chirper Tacos. Clearly if you are going to try this be aware that you may be allergic to cicadas and not realise it! Link to trill-ific recipes here
What to do with cicada shells
- Sort them out by size
- Draw them, labelling body parts
- Use as a 3D model and make little signs for each body part
Get super creative and set up a still life diorama with them, my daughter pretends they are monsters chasing her animals. You could build a little city and set up the husks to look like they are rampaging through.
Lastly, this one is for the real nature lovers. A friend of mine told me that when she was a child they used to collect the husks, spray paint them silver and gold then add glitter. Once decorated these real life jewels were proudly displayed on the Christmas tree. Go on, I dare you to try these cicada activities!
Sarah Higman is a former Environmental Education Officer who worked in a zoo, a sewage farm and a classroom, although not at the same time. She is currently in the middle of launching her own business – Kids Activities Delivered which is designed to mix science and art, and introduce children to the wide range of science careers available in Australia. You can follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook