The Pillbug

Day 16, "Oh dear, I spent ages trying to catch squirrels but I am hopeless at climbing trees. All I got was just some peabugs and earwigs for crunchy snacks."

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We are reading Ian Whybrow's "Little Wolf's Book of Badness" and that sentence provides a good systems check for our almost-kindergartners arriving towards the end of their prekindergarten year. The peabugs in our British version of the book, along with words like torch and other words have been translated in our American version to something else altogether. In the American version it reads, "ants and earwigs."

Of course it's a great opportunity to talk about choices that are made by the authors and publishers, but it's also an opportunity to talk about regional labels for this little child-friendly, lipsmackerous (according to Little Wolf) insect that you can find almost anywhere in the world where there are fallen leaves. Except that they aren't even insects. They are crustaceans. In this case, it seemed so problematic and unpredictable that the publishers decided to abandon the peabug altogether and just say ant. 

This is because, I believe, there are so many different names for this creature, the armadillidiidae or woodlice. I have heard them called doodle bugs, pillbugs, roly-polys, potato bugs. Over the years I have learned more like armadillo bugs, butcher boys, slaters, chuggie pigs, each name more adorable than the last because they are like toys. Their fourteen little legs tickle as they move, they roll up into balls, and peek-a-boo unroll and run, run, run scurry. So much fun!

There are many opportunities for teacher- or program-efficacy checks, i.e. asking "Am I doing my job well?" and this is one of them. Let's find out how each of the children find and identify the "peabug"! We'll collect these labels and see how many versions of this little thing's name we have. This time of year you can't move a bunch of leaves and not find one. Within seconds one of the children found one in the play yard. We dutifully took it 'round to where each child or group of children were playing to collect the labels. Me with pen and paper, such a teacher, and my faithful assistant, the Queen of Nature, the bug finder/holder.

Our first three customers, glanced up and over their sand stirring and scooping at the crustacean perched on the Queen's palm and said in answer to "What do you call this?"

"Bug."

"Bug."

"Worm."

Whoa, nelly! In my head, all I could hear where the screeching brakes being pulled on an out-of control train. An all-stop, systems-check fail. These are children who we have been teaching for years! The littles at our school have name labels that feature 12 different insects! We are outside in a nature-filled environment, we go to a larger forest spaces regularly, we embrace nature in every kind of weather! How did this thing get missed???

While I get that a very busy child could label this creature a bug (we mostly do as well) what do we do with someone calling it a worm? Either way, we had missed what I would call a vital piece of information for early childhood! This is why it is so important for adults to ask questions! We will all learn something new along the way.

If you don't ask, you will never find out.

So off we scurry and tickle with our 42 pairs of legs and matching number of hands to find AND label and learn more about these terrestrial crustaceans!

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  This is the section of our Project Book, "Outside at School" that explores this pillbug exploration. The children-authors have been collecting interesting bits and pieces of their explorations outside. This question about the pillbug is a perfect addition. We can add and revisit the question and what we find out about the subject over time.

This is the section of our Project Book, "Outside at School" that explores this pillbug exploration. The children-authors have been collecting interesting bits and pieces of their explorations outside. This question about the pillbug is a perfect addition. We can add and revisit the question and what we find out about the subject over time.