Learning While Not Learning: Skins, Wings, and Shells

I was up to my elbows in soap suds this afternoon, when my son came in to ask me to look at a snake he had found. I assumed it was one of two scenarios: he’d managed to find some discarded toy that was snake-like, or by the time he had meandered in and I meandered out any real-live snake would be long gone. Neither inspired me to drop what I was doing, but I went out anyway. Can’t be too careful with children and snakes. As it turned out, there was a snake. Or rather, part of one.


This is a great specimen for our nature table. Unfortunately the snake managed to squeeze himself under a picket fence while shedding it, and it tore easily into multiple pieces. It now looks something like a strip of papery bubble wrap. At the moment that it was found I had a bit of indigestion, and the look of the tube on the inside of the skin made my weak stomach want to empty itself. Something about that tube, yuck. The stomach turning papery bubble wrap is now on display with our other odds and ends.

Here is our bug collection. Of course, looking at and handling a real specimen is a much better learning tool than any picture. Better still, having them all together for viewing the characteristics of an insect. Do they all have six legs? Yes. Exoskeletons? Check. Perhaps wings? Antennae?


I am not too easily intimidated by bugs, unless they creep up on me. Since this bug collection was started, zombie bugs have managed to startle me. Mostly it has been by way of my son suddenly dancing them around in front of my face like a puppet on his finger.

The thing that catches my eye most about this collection is the cockroach. That is the only bug in the group that has a negative association with it as being a “dirty” insect. Not considering its habit of invading human homes, it does have a repulsive look to it. It is so shiny and such an unattractive brown. Poor, disgusting creature.

The nature table also sports a bit of ocean. I snuck some writing practice into my kindergartner’s examination of seashells. We both learned a lot of shell names and there were a lot of good questions. My son kept wanting to know more about how the shells once had creatures similar to a clam living inside them. It is hard for a four year old to grasp that the slimy, sluggish blob is a living creature.


Sneaky homeschool teachers are always finding ways to push some learning into times outside of the teaching schedule.