Once again, perception is reality.
Earlier today I was in my classroom with about a dozen students cracking acorns. We were circled around the big black tables I have in my classroom. Some students were sorting the bad nuts from the good nuts, others were rinsing them in water. I had two nutcrackers that were being used to crack open the tough outer shell and three big wooden mallets that kids were using to crush up the nut meat so that we could soak it in a jar.
There’s been a lot of talk about a zombie apocalypse and I just want them to be prepared to live off the land.
No, that’s not true. I’m a big fan of hands on learning, so I am always planning physical activities that give kids the opportunity to use tools, work together and see a tangible outcome. So we yesterday, we went outside to gather acorns from the schoolyard. Today we spent making acorn flour in order to prepare acorn pancakes for a school-wide potluck next week.
Fifteen minutes into this endeavor, there was a shriek. One lucky student had cracked open an acorn to find it filled up with maggots. Gross, wriggling, fat, white maggots. She dropped the acorn on the table and the maggots started squirming rapidly, as if they were trying to catch a bus.
It was revolting, even for me.
The only thing worse than one shrieking teenager, though is a whole classroom of shrieking teenagers.
Thinking quickly, I swept the maggots into my hand in an attempt to minimize the panic. They pulse against my skin and it felt like they were trying to burrow into my skin.
Scanning the room, my eyes landed on my aquarium, home to a dozen fat goldfish. Just as the kids were starting to wretch and carry on about how disgusting the maggots were, I dropped the handful of maggots into the tank.
The fish, usually lethargic and pretty dull, leapt (swam) into action! They flashed and dipped, racing each other to get to the maggots, slurping them up and looking around for more. It was the closest thing to a feeding frenzy I have ever had in my classroom.
Wanting more, suddenly the kids started looking for acorns with a telltale little hole drilled by a mama bug looking for a place to lay her eggs. They cracked them open and collected as many maggots as they could in little paper cups.
By the time the period was over, my fish were fat and happy and almost every acorn had been cracked open.
A couple of kids had packaged up maggots to take home with them to feed their fish.
When those first maggots popped out, I nearly lost control of the class. But thanks to years of experience, and the cooperation of my goldfish, I was able to help the kids see the maggots as something exciting and fun instead of something terrifying and scary.
Some things really are terrifying and scary. But maybe if we try to change the way we think of them, there is fun to be had after all.
For more about my classroom acorn experiment, read this:
Here’s What Happened When I Asked My Students to Bring Me Acorns
It started with the intersection of an NPR story and a recipe I saw online.
If you’re curious about why an insect might lay her eggs in an acorn, then this story might interest you: