I am Not Ms. Frizzle, and this is Definitely Not the Magic School Bus
I think we can all agree that the ant posts need to stop. But I feel that I must follow through on the story. Following through was one of my New Year’s resolutions this year. Okay, I admit that is my resolution every year. And you can probably conclude how well I’ve followed through with that.
Anyway, while a bunch of you are wrestling with a Monster Storm in the northeast, including my NJ relatives (shout out! well, shout out when you get a chance to read this, which probably won’t be for another week or so, and you probably won’t really be putting my blog high on your priorities once you get electricity back, but just in case, I want you to know I’m thinking about you), I have been wrestling with a herd of harvester ants. I know it’s not exactly the same. In fact, it’s a pretty lame comparison.
A better comparison would be the figurative wrestling I got to do with my 2nd graders today during The Transfer. One advantage of teaching Gifted and Talented students is that they are pretty confident most of the time that they know more than you do. And they are pretty right most of the time. Usually, I am better about hiding that, but they obviously sensed my feelings of inadequacy as I described the way everything was going to go down this morning.
“We are going to prepare the ant farm, and then I will punch a hole in the side of the bottle and connect it to the ant farm, so the little guys can just naturally make their way to their new home.”
“Why don’t you just put them in?” “How are they going to know they can go in there?” “Do you know what you’re doing?”
They clustered around the table as I followed the directions for prepping the ant farm. The one boy who has the least confidence in my ability to do anything insisted on reading the instructions along with me to make sure I did it right.
Then it was time to stab a hole in the Vitamin Zero bottle. This is one of the steps I hadn’t completely thought through – having only a blunt pair of scissors with which to perform this delicate operation. I closed my eyes as I jabbed the scissors, picturing an accidentally monstrous puncture and zillions of harvester ants crawling on top and over each other to escape.
To my surprise, I was successful in creating the minute hole that was my goal, and I quickly inserted a plastic tube that had come with the ant farm into the tiny aperture.
“It’s too high! The ants can’t get in that!”
“It’s too slippery! They’ll never get over to the ant farm.”
“You should put it lower.”
“Let me do it.”
Of course, they were right. It was too high, and the tube was sloped ridiculously. The few ants that acrobatically flung themselves into the tube were only able to crawl up about two inches before unceremoniously sliding back down.
I told the students that they needed to be patient, and to let the ants problem-solve.
About 10 minutes later, I snapped 2/3 of the tube off, and lowered the hole – quickly duct taping Hole #1 in case of deserters.
The students grumblingly accepted this compromise, still not satisfied with the slow progress of the ants. But they were gratified to see that a few of the ants were able to cross the tube to the new homestead.
By the time the kids returned to their homerooms, some of the more adventurous ants had obviously communicated that the coast was clear to their pals, and an assembly line had begun with the apparent objective of carrying the entirety of their 2-day-old home over to the new one. I promised the students I would take pictures every day of the ants’ progress, until 2nd grade returns next Monday. Boy Who Doubts Me tried to convince me that I should e-mail the pics each night to him; I’m surprised he did not demand that I set up a live webcam so that he can assure himself that I don’t destroy the whole habitat with my ineptitude during the next 7 days.
For Blogging Purposes, the entire event was somewhat anti-climactic. But that’s okay with me. And, if you ever need to grab the attention of a group of 8-year-olds for an extended period of time, I can promise you that an ant farm will do the trick. In between their critiques of my less-than-satisfactory approach to ant herding, the students observed a lot about the ants, themselves, that elicited fascinated exclamations.