This fall, students in Cara Finnerty and Alexa Alifonso's first grade classroom noticed an unusual insect during their outdoor time on the 74th Street terrace. With its unique coloration and patterning, students were fascinated by the insect and were curious about what they had discovered. As Cara explains, the class began to research the insect together and after watching a video, identified it as a spotted lanternfly, an invasive species that can be very destructive to crops and trees. They learned the insect originally comes from Asia and it feeds on the tree of heaven, which there are two of in neighboring backyards. The insect’s appearance on the terrace coincided with a public campaign to “stomp it out” in an effort to treat infestations early before they become widespread.
Since the initial sighting in early October, there has been “a core group of students who continue to be passionately concerned about the spotted lanternfly infestation.” The students’ intrigue prompted Cara and Alexa to engineer lessons and activities centered around the students’ interest, a concept known as emerging curriculum in our Lower School-Early Childhood division. Teachers follow a set curriculum, but always leave space for topics that naturally arise over the course of the school year. Throughout the fall, students have made their own artistic interpretations of the insect, created public service announcements to be distributed throughout the school, and drafted letters to send to the Department of Agriculture to register the presence of the spotted lanternfly in the area. “We are proud of the children for caring about the environment and actively participating as citizens,” writes Cara. The class is exploring other ways to contribute to the cause and they continue to keep an eye out for additional sightings.