Little elves at night – family environmental education class in Kaohsiung Metropolitan Park
Shiny spots at night
The environmental education class “little elves at night” organized by Kaohsiung Metropolitan Park started after the night fell. Students used processed recycled paper in male and female Pyrocoelia analis Fabricius designs to make hats and painted them in fluorescent colors. Afterwards, parents and children were separated in the lobby with lights out. At this time, parents, who were wearing male firefly hats, had to go look for their children in female firefly hats. (This idea originated from actual firefly behavior that male Pyrocoelia analis Fabricius fly to find their female counterparts, which do not fly, to mate.) Then, all of them went into the multimedia room to learn how fireflies glow by watching an animation.
Although it was already July, there were still yellow green flashing lights emitting from fireflies’ abdomen on the bottom of the forest. We went to the square above the parking lot to stargaze. Spreading mats on the ground, we then lied down casually listening to the instructor. He started to draw different areas in the sky with his laser pointer and talked about the summer triangle, eight planets, “magnitude” in astronomy, and relevant knowledge and information.
In addition to knowledge learned in the classroom, random discoveries in the field trip were equally surprising. When some of us found Giant African Snails (Achatina fulica) mating on the side of the road, the instructor seized the opportunity to talk about the hermaphrodite feature of snails. When some kids found a Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda venatoria) carrying its egg sac in the tree, the instructor then started to dispel the myths about this species. “Huntsman Spiders” do not pee to defend themselves. Their excrement and secretions also do not cause skin ulceration. Moreover, they are excellent roach hunters in the house and responsible mothers. They shoot silk to make egg sacs and carry them around until the eggs hatch.” Later when we came to a tree with holes created by the Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos canicapillus), the instructor asked, “Why don’t woodpeckers suffer from concussions from pecking trees with such force?” He then explained it is because the woodpecker has a special head structure. The brain is small but skull is big enough to spread the impact. Other than that, they have developed all kinds of buffer mechanisms to protect their brain and eyes.
Listening to the orchestra of frog croaking and bugs chirping, parents and children opened their hearts to experience nature. We came to realize how living organisms and the environment rely on each other. We also learned that air pollution and light pollution made it difficult to watch the beautiful sky. Hopefully, after this fruitful class, we will gradually reduce the use artificial light and try to respect wild animals, plants as well as their habitats.