- Sponsorship -

Francis, the amazing mantis

Playground discovery of praying mantis inspires science lessons, writing

There’s a fascinating creature in teacher Kate Hull’s  classroom. She has a triangular head with bulging eyes and an enormous appetite. She moves at lightning speed and eats grasshoppers like tasty morsels.

Meet Francis the Mantis — fierce hunter. Agile acrobat. Writer’s muse. Bad girlfriend.

Francis devours a grasshopper

Not only is the other-worldly-looking praying mantis, which students found in the schoolyard, providing entertainment in the West Elementary classroom; she is teaching students a thing or two about curiosities in the natural world and fierce animal instincts, the fourth graders explained.

From inside her habitat of leaves, dirt, sticks and grass, Francis has inspired much scientific study, research papers, and lots of conversation.

While she mostly eats other bugs, praying mantises can take down animals three times her size, students learned. “They can eat birds, frogs, lizards, snakes and each other,” said Kalayla Kome.

In a research paper, Julianna Mosher detailed the insect’s habitat, eggs and diet. “They live in warmer regions and prefer hotter places. Most species can be found in the tropical rainforest,” she wrote.

Also, the class shared, Francis can turn her head 180 degrees and has one ultrasonic ear on her chest.

But perhaps most gruesomely, “When they mate, the female eats the male,” said Cody Stacy.

There are endless interesting facts to learn about praying mantises

Schoolyard Visitor

A few weeks ago, while outside for recess, students discovered Francis hanging out on the side of the school building. They ran to tell Hull, who said, “Go get it!”

Julianna’s mother brought in a butterfly habitat, and the students got busy learning what Francis needed to survive. They built a dwelling perfect for a mantis. They watched her eat — often, and voraciously — and soon noticed her trim abdomen begin to bulge.

“We started to wonder, maybe this isn’t a male,” Hull said.

Sure enough, the next Monday morning an egg sac called an ootheca hung on the side of the cage.

Students are also learning about the circle of life. Francis will soon die, which is nature’s way of protecting her eggs from the always hungry mother, said Hull.

In eight to 10 weeks the eggs should hatch, though Hull’s unsure if she will keep them in the class. The babies are so tiny, she said, they could crawl out of the habitat’s netting.

She’s loved seeing the students learn about Francis step by step, from discovery to research to catching food and feeding her, to observing and writing about her.

“It was the most impromptu learning lesson I’ve had in years,” Hull said. “It’s been amazing.”

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

This student leader aspires to inspire

His advice: seize all opportunities, reach out to others...

Plotting for a plot

Students’ hand-drawn maps are meant for the safekeeping of memories and to spur ideas for when they write personal narratives...

Students reopen fine-dining restaurant six months after closing its doors

GRCC’s The Heritage has reopened to the general public, with culinary students cooking, baking their way toward degrees...

‘We’re educators; we always make it work’

Kelly VanDyke’s roots in Kenowa Hills reach back to her days as a student teacher there in the Resource Room. Entering her eleventh school year as a special education teacher at Central Elementary, she is preparing for new students, safety protocols and classroom learning, reimagined...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

‘I want it to look happy’

With help from generous donors, elementary teachers worked to make welcoming, kid-friendly space while following the rules of social distancing and sanitation...

‘A positive in a time that’s somewhat negative’

The new two-story Wyoming High School building opened to 10th- through 12th-graders, who were happy to settle into their new digs for the first week of in-person classes...

Student athletes glad football is back, after trying other sports

Some student athletes briefly competed in other sports, such as tennis and cross country, after fall football was canceled. Now they’re happy to be back on the gridiron...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS