Cricket Weathercasters


Objectives:

The student will:

  1. recognize the uniqueness of each animal species;
  2. calculate temperature by counting cricket chirps.

Method

Discuss special characteristics of different animals, concentrating on unique aspects of crickets.

Materials

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe, published by Gulliver Books, 1987; ISBN 0-15-200470-X; crickets; writing materials; watches with second hands.

Background

Crickets live in grassy fields, gardens, lawns, and empty lots. They prefer cracks in the ground or small holes in the soil. Crickets will eat almost anything. They are most active in warm weather and are nocturnal. Crickets chirp to attract a mate. The males rub their wings together to produce the chirping sound. Crickets hear with membranes in their front legs that can sense vibrations. In China and Japan, crickets are kept as house pets. They are easily attainable from bait shops and pet shops (or students may catch field crickets and house crickets). They will live in a ventilated, covered jar with a small amount of sand and leaves. Caution -- make sure the students do not harm the crickets and release them when finished.

Procedure

  1. Read the book I Wish I Were a Butterfly
  2. Discuss the characteristics of glow worm (lightning bug), ladybug, dragonfly, spider and butterfly – concentrate on what makes them special.
  3. Some of the characteristics of a cricket are its ability to chirp; its ears on the inside of its front legs and its surprising way of indicating the temperature.
  4. In observing crickets, consider the following questions:
    • Interesting features: What are some of the most outstanding features of the cricket?
    • Body: How many sections does the body have? Can you find the head, thorax and abdomen? Do you see the cerci (the two projections extending rearward from the abdomen) used to detect vibrations?
    • Legs: How many legs does it have? Which legs are the jumping legs? Notice where the legs are attached to the cricket's body.
    • Wings: Look at the wings if they are present. How many wings are there? Notice where they attach to the body.
    • Head: Look at the head. How many eyes do you see?
    • Mouth: Do you see a mouth? Does the cricket have lips? Try to feed the cricket a leaf to watch the mouth parts move. Try to describe mouth parts and how they move.
    • Antennae: Where are the antennae? Are they each long, string-like, single appendages, or are they made up of many parts? Can you count the parts? Do they all look alike in size, shape and color? Why do you think a cricket needs antennae? For what? Think about radio and television antennae.
    • Motion: We usually think that crickets "hop." Do they also walk? How do they walk on the ground or the floor? If possible, watch the cricket move. Follow your insect and make it jump or hop several times (at least five times). Does it hop the same distance each time? Measure or estimate the distance of each hop or flight. Does the cricket seem to get tired? What makes you think so?
    • Colors: Look at the whole cricket carefully. Is it the same color all over? Are the colors, shapes and sizes the same on both sides? What is attractive about your cricket? Is it clean? Watch to see what the cricket does to clean or groom itself.
    • Habitat: Where does the cricket live? What does it eat? Do crickets live in your neighborhood year round?

Conclusion

Did you think there were so many interesting things about a cricket? Do you think other insects might be interesting? What other insects or small animals might be interesting to look at and learn more about?

Challenge the students to use a cricket as a thermometer using the following formulas:

As David C. Kramer of St. Cloud University has said, "Crickets are trying to change from English to metric, but they are presently operating under both systems."

Extension

The students can each pick a new animal and write about its unique characteristics. The students should each find out that every animal has unique characteristics.

For more information about keeping crickets in the classroom, refer to Science and Children magazine, "The Classroom Animal," Nov/Dec 1985, pp. 28-30

Evaluation

Students can explain how to use a cricket to determine the temperature.

Age: Grade 4-6

Subjects: Math, Science

Skills: Application, comparing similarities and differences, computation, description, discussion, generalization, listening, listing and observation

Duration: 30-40 minutes

Group Size : Individual

Setting: Indoors and Outdoors

Conceptual Framework : IB4, IIB2, IIA3

Key Vocabulary : cricket, unique, characteristic

Developed by Katherine Becker and her students at Creighton University during an advanced Project WILD workshop which focused on a writing component for wildlife.


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