On a recent September afternoon, teacher Jillian Reeves had her second-graders at Palmer Elementary examining caterpillars. She asked if any of them saw black spots in the small containers housing their caterpillars. Several students shook their heads yes.
"That's caterpillar poop, which is called frass," Reeves explained to her amazed students. Students bent over their science journals to record this observation.
The children are studying the lifecycle of a butterfly. They're raising their own butterflies right in the classroom. Each student has a caterpillar and all of the necessary equipment to observe its metamorphosis.
The materials come from the OCM BOCES Science Center. This year the Baldwinsville Central School District is working with the Science Center to provide teachers in kindergarten through sixth grades with kits for classroom instruction. The kits give students hands-on experience in the discovery process as they study and master science concepts.
Reeves has noticed that her students are very focused and interested in their science lessons because they each have their own caterpillar to examine, close up. The second-graders are recording all of their observations in their journals, complete with pictures they draw as they track the caterpillars' physical changes.
At Reynolds Elementary, teacher Lisa Collins' fifth-graders have welcomed several guests from Louisiana to the classroom - crayfish on loan from the Science Center. Her students are observing the behavior, physical attributes and feeding habits of the crayfish, which are living in a small plastic pool in the room.
Jack Gramlich, an environmental educator with OCM BOCES, recently brought several local crayfish to the class to discuss the differences between the local crayfish and those from Louisiana. The lesson literally became a hands-on experience when each student had a chance to hold a crayfish.