In which Miss Molly gets buggy with it.

Greetings and salutations library lovers!

We had our first Mangled Mess of the year, and it dealt with bugs! To go along with our There Was a Fine Town theme, I asked my Messers how Insects are like Knights.

Do you have any guesses? That’s right! Exoskeletons! It’s like bug armor. How cool.

We talked about insects and the protective measures they have against predators. It was awesome.

My Messers knew a surprising amount about bugs, and had some great (and disgusting) stories to go along with those bugs. Not content to just discuss facts and show static pictures, I wanted to get them a little more engrossed in the entomology subject. And what better way to do that then by giving bug facts about bugs while said bugs are crawling around faces!

Now, before you get too freaked out, I did this with a series of videos, aptly called Bugface from Earth Unplugged. Seriously. These videos are awesome. Not only are the bugs terrifying looking, but the facts are interesting. And what better way to capture attention than by something simultaneously disgusting and fascinating. That interest then translated to the Messers discussing the aspects of the bugs they had just seen on the screen and talking about what they knew about insects already. AND brought about my favorite question of all time, “Miss Molly, do you think there are books upstairs about that bug? I want to freak out my mom.”

YES. Yes there are books upstairs. When we finish class we can go find them. So awesome.

The above video is one of the ones I showed the kids. The really awesome part of it? It brings in a bit of pop-culture. That bug, the Tailless Whip Scorpion was used in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Remember when Moody was demonstrating the Unforgivable Curses on that englarged and clearly mythical bug? Well, turns out that’s a real bug.

Again, simultaneously terrifying and really cool. Showing the Messers something they’ve already come across, and thought was fake, is really awesome. Science and magic can sometimes go hand in hand. Actually, it is a happy marriage more often than not. But, that’s a story for another time.

After our discussion and videos, I had my Messers build their own bug exoskeletons which we then put through a series of tests. I gave them a tiny foam ball covered with glued on sequins and beads to represent a bug’s fragile insides. If dropped, the sequins and beads pop off. Then I gave them a variety of supplies to protect their bug–to make armor: pipe-cleaners, duct tape, egg cartons, tin foil, bubble wrap, wax paper–and had them go to town.

A good exoskeleton protects the bug, from being squashed, from getting wet, from losing moisture, from breaking things if it falls from a great height. So, after the bugs were constructed, they were swatted with a fly swatter, dropped from 8 feet up (or me standing on a chair), dunked in a bucket of water, and placed under a pile of 12 books of various size and weight.

Successful bugs didn’t lose parts, get crushed, or get the fragile insides wet. The kids had a great time making and testing their bugs. I loved the creation and testing aspect of the day. It is very satisfying to see something you made hold up to ridiculous tests. I think it’s equally satisfying to see it NOT hold up and then improve upon it. All the kids wanted to rearmor their bugs to make them even stronger. I sent them home with their creations, and told them to find other armoring objects at home (but to make sure those things were ok to use first.)

All in all, it was a great first Mangled Mess. I can’t wait for our next one.



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