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Chickens aren’t the only ones

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Education | Volunteering | Reptiles | Turtles

Monday, April 28, 2008

Josie

I went to kindergarten again this month for another science lesson, and this time we taught the children all about eggs, showing them that eggs can come in different sizes and colors and that animals that come from them can be small or large.

I love visiting the kindergarteners at Cesar Chavez Elementary School here in Long Beach, where the Aquarium of the Pacific provides monthly science classes for children in all the classes there.

The egg science lesson made for an interesting day, partly because the children were a bit more talkative and excited. Not only was this particular Friday also the first official day of the Long Beach Grand Prix that was held only streets away from the school—it was so close that you could hear the noise of the cars and smell the burnt rubber that emanated from the track—but also it was a day in which four of the six classes were being taught by substitute teachers.

That said, we still had a great time, with Emily starting each of the classes by holding up a chicken egg and asking the children to tell her what it was, resulting in choruses of “it’s an egg” coming from the youngsters. When she asked if any of them helped cook eggs at home, we were quite surprised to see that almost every child in each of the classes responded by raising a hand. “Wow, we have a lot of chefs here,” Emily exclaimed every time, much to the enjoyment of the children, if their giggles were any indication.

Next, Emily cracked the egg open into a clear glass bowl, then showed it to the children by walking around so that all could see it, explaining that the bright yellow part is called the yolk and that the clear part, which she told them turns white when cooked, is called the egg white, or, teaching them a new word, the albumen. Emily explained that the yolk is nourishment for the baby growing within an egg, and the albumen protects the little one from harm.

During this same lesson to kindergarteners last year, taught by Shelley, the children repeatedly responded one answer when Shelley asked them about it. The part on the outside of the egg, the children responded, when asked, was “it’s an egg!” “Yes, this is an egg, but what is this part of the egg that is on the outside and is hard?” “It’s an egg,” they kept answering. It was so cute!

This year I saw that they answered the same way every time, both when asked what the yellow or white parts were called. One little boy even responded that it was the “huevo;” none at first seemed to get that each part of the egg has a different name.

By the end of each 30-minute class, most of the children finally seemed to grasp the different names for each part of the egg, but when asked what the yellow ball (yolk) is called, one boy said it was the “yo-yo.” Last year, in response to the same question, a little boy blurted out, “It’s the yogurt!” What fun these children can be!

Emily then read a book entitled Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones, which featured all sorts of eggs that animals lay, in addition to the chicken eggs with which the children are most familiar. Beforehand, Emily told each class that they were going to be asked questions about the book after she read it, and told them that they thus should pay extra close attention.

It’s funny how I often learn something new in these kindergarten classes, and this year it was one of the teachers who did so as well. “I didn’t know a (duckbill) platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) lays eggs,” she exclaimed when Emily finished reading the book.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t know that this mammal laid eggs either, nor did I know that another mammal, the spiny anteater (Tachyglossus aculeatus), also lays eggs. These two creatures, which come from Australia, are the only egg-laying mammals, apparently.

The questions that followed the book reading basically were to find out whether the children had absorbed the information that Emily read to them. “What animals lay eggs,” she asked each class. The answers varied, but in most cases included chickens, fish, birds, snails, spiders, frogs, dinosaurs, octopuses, and sharks.

Because this science lesson included a focus on sea turtles, Emily had to start asking them about another animal that is large, lives in the ocean, and has a shell, but only one boy in one of the classes actually remembered that this creature was mentioned in the book and was the one that Emily was trying to get them to answer.

Emily then picked up a ping-pong ball and told the youngsters that sea turtles hatch from eggs that are the same shape and almost the same size as the diminutive ball that she held in her hand. She also told them that when the turtles come out of these eggs, they are about the size of the palm of a small hand. That’s pretty amazing when you think of how large they can become.

In order to get out of their shells when they are ready to hatch, these creatures use an “egg tooth” to crack them open, having been left all alone on the beach with their mothers far away, she told the children. We then all pretended to be sea turtles, putting our hands in front of our noses and moving them up and down to simulate the actions of a baby sea turtle escaping from its shell to go off into the ocean. Children this age always seem to enjoy such things.

Emily then told the children that we had a surprise for them, and it proved to be just that, to hear the oohs and aahs and giggles that came out of the children when Emily inflated a model of a leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest sea turtle, which also is the deepest diving, most migratory, and wide-ranging of all such animals. The adult leatherback, which can reach 8 feet in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds, is far bigger than these kindergarteners, and this model sure proved the point.

In fact, in last year’s science class on eggs, I remember one little girl in particular who was so amazed as the inflatable turtle grew larger and larger. Seated on a nearby floor mat, this little girl just stared at it in amazement.

As it grew larger, her eyes grew larger as well. Almost to herself, she started saying “Oh my goodness … oh my goodness … OH MY GOODNESS,” and then jumped off her mat onto another child sitting nearby. It was so cute. Even though she knew that it was an inflatable, and thus a fake sea turtle, she still became somewhat alarmed when she saw how large it could really get!

This year, two giggling girls commented in unison that the inflatable sea turtle was “humongous!”

Afterwards, the children took seats at desks in the classroom, where they could practice to be first graders, and where they could put together a craft of a small sea turtle hatching out of its egg, Emily told them. Each child received a round piece of thick paper with a zigzag line drawn on it, which they were supposed to cut to make two jagged halves. These were the “egg shells” to which they attached cut-outs of sea turtles, to simulate the moment when they hatch. Many of the children commented happily that they were going to take their baby turtles home.

And that, my friends, is how we learned all about eggs at Cesar Chavez Elementary. For my other blogs on previous kindergarten classes I attended, check out my posts about science lessons on where the sun goes when it gets dark and the characteristics of living things .

Chickens aren’t the only ones
Here are some of the props that Emily used during the kindergartener's science lesson on eggs. She read the book Chickens Aren't the Only Ones that talks about the variety of animals--including two mammals from Australia--that lay eggs, and pulled out a sea turtle puppet when she started talking about the creatures. She also broke a chicken egg open to discuss with the children the yolk and the egg white, or albumen, their new word of the day..  | Josie Cabiglio
Chickens aren’t the only ones
A little boy peers at the inflatable leatherback turtle as it looms quite large near to where he is sitting.  | Josie Cabiglio
Chickens aren’t the only ones
A little girl holds the craft that each of the children made at the end of the class meeting; it represents a hatching sea turtle that each of them seemed quite happy to be able to take home.  | Josie Cabiglio

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