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Crayfish add a fun alternative to teaching students science

October 14, 2018

A crayfish eyes its lunch on Friday while students watch its action during a third-grade science class at Prairie View Elementary School.

Third-grade students at Prairie View Elementary School can be heard cheering when it is time for science class these days, thanks to some visitors in the classroom.

The students are studying crayfish as part of the “structures of life” unit at the school. Teacher Jennifer Sprenger said K-5 students in the district started learning about the live animals as part of their science classes last year.

Other grades have other animal friends who visit them throughout the year. Kindergartners are taught animals two-by-two: mealworm, earthworms, sowbugs, pill bugs, snails, red worms, guppies and goldfish. First-graders are taught plants and animals using pill bugs and sow bugs. Second-graders learn about insects and plants using mealworms, milkweed eggs and painted lady butterfly larvae. Fourth-graders learn about the environment with mealworm, sowbugs, pill bugs, snails, guppies and goldfish. The fifth-graders have butterfly larvae and red worms to learn about living systems.

“Right now, the third-graders are learning about life cycles and were introduced to the structure of the crayfish,” Sprenger said.

The students spend the first hour learning things like the purpose of the crayfish’s tail. After that, they break up in groups to study the crustacean.

“In the past, they did a lot with textbooks and worksheets,” Sprenger said. “This way, they become real scientists. Besides the text, they get to see what a crayfish really is like. A lot of them never picked up a crayfish before they started this unit.”

Third-grader Jace Labinski said he is not new to being around crayfish, but he is enjoying learning more about them.

“I’ve seen a billion crayfish,” Labinski said.

“We learned yesterday that their bones are on the outside of their body, and they can be found in ponds and rivers,” third-grader Jordanna Nelson said.

The students also help with feeding and taking care of the animal’s habitat. The crayfish will go onto another school, Sprenger said with all the schools learning from them over the year.

The students completed a plant unit before this.

“The unit is not just crayfish,” Sprenger said. “They grow sprouts and beans and talk about how things are related to the human structure.”

The students are able to do a guided scientific method.

“It’s the beginning of them learning the scientific method,” Sprenger said.

When the students finish the “structures of life” unit, they will go on to begin some engineering concepts with the “motion and matter” unit.

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