A Touching Experience
With Visiting Crustaceans
Raising Land Hermit Crabs in their classrooms may have been busy work for Cherry Avenue Second-graders, but they made room in their schedules for a very special visitor. Marine Educator Tracy Marcus of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County brought The Sea Explorers Marine Camp—a live-species crustacean/ touch-tank experience—from the Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learning Center in Southold to Sayville so the students could enjoy the “field trip” without leaving their own elementary school!
Finishing off their science life-cycle unit, Mrs. O’Rourke’s, Mrs. Longobucco’s, and Mrs. Fulton’s Second-grade classes were excited to expand their education to include all kinds of wondrous marine life in the traveling camp.
Marine Educator Tracy shared intriguing facts that included the following:
- Our native species is the Blue Claw Crab, but the students also learned about an invasive species, such as the Asian Shore Crabs. These crabs, identified by the stripes on their legs, come off boats from China and get released into our waters where they hide in the rocks. Their presence upsets the balance of nature in our local waters.
- Horseshoe crabs are NOT crustaceans. They have ten legs, but no antenna.
- While Hermit Crabs are scavengers with compound eyes similar to insects, there are significant differences between the varieties: the Flat Clawed Hermit Crab are shy (but bite!) and the Long Wristed Hermit crabs stay tiny.
- Allowed to touch the Shore Shrimps, the students also learned about the four different kinds of Grass Shrimp. These adaptable shrimp blend into their environment by turning the same color as the food they eat. They are also scavengers like the Land Hermit Crabs the students were raising in their classrooms.
- When they were holding Mud Crabs in their hands, the students learned that these crabs stay small, get their name from hiding and burying into the mud, are scavengers, and like to eat seaweed.
- Only during molting season are Soft Shell Crab’s shells are actually soft , and that’s when they are harvested for eating at restaurants.
- The students enjoyed touching and learning about lobsters: one in ten million are white lobsters; blue lobsters are actually a mutation that makes them blue; female lobsters have wider tail fins to fan the eggs and help give the babies oxygen.
Some students in Mrs. O’Rourke’s class eagerly shared their reaction to the in-school field trip. Bella Lundquist remarked, “We learned in class that crustaceans have ten jointed legs;” while Courtney Malone considered, “We learned they sleep during the day and are awake at night. That means they are nocturnal;” and Meredith Brennan commented about the Soft Shell Crab’s dilemma, “Oh, he just molted, and now people are eating him! I feel bad!”
“As you can see,” Mrs. O’Rourke concluded, “we love learning about nonfiction in science! We can’t wait for our ladybug unit in the spring!”