Not-so-creepy crawlies

Cullman City Schools students making friends with millipedes to learn about animal senses

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East Elementary School students hold and examine live millipedes as part of an animal study in their curriculum this week. (Photo courtesy of Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Students at East Elementary School are learning about how animals receive and interpret information with their senses — and to make sure that lesson burrows deep into their minds — they’re handling some harmless millipedes to see those senses in action.

“These millipedes are fantastic friends for the classroom because they are harmless to hold, and their defense mechanisms are burrowing in the soil and spraying from their stink glands, which has happened in class a few times,” East Elementary School fourth grade teacher April Dean said. “We created their habitats in class after researching the millipedes, and we take care of them daily by spraying their soil with water and bringing them leftover carrots and fruit from the Cub Cat Cafe.”

You put any living creatures around kids, even millipedes, and you know they’ll have names soon enough. Some of the millipedes at East Elementary are now known as Millie, Pete with Many Feet, Patricia and Penelope, just to name a few. Students also spent this week comparing the millipede to the centipede and created models to show the similarities and differences.

The millipede curriculum is part of an AMSTI Science study plan, which provides materials for lesson plans. Along what millipedes, teachers were also sent African dwarf frogs and fiddler crabs, as well as food and holding tanks.

“The students are enthralled with the animals and have learned life science and responsibility as well,” Dean said.