Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hitching a Ride!

This is an exciting Blog-day for me since the subject matter is closely connected to the source that ignited my passion for teaching through songs! 

My lessons in interconnectivity likely began (unbeknownst to me) as a child; I was fortunate enough to be able to roam the mystical Sherwood Forest on my pony for hours on end.  In those days of innocence, I wandered freely through the countryside with no worries or fears, only a thirst to explore, to discover new things, and a fierce curiosity for a landscape that beckoned with exciting possibilities. 

I could gaze timelessly into a pond, watching the water spiders and tadpoles skimming and swimming about; lie under the horse chestnut trees pondering the rays of light illuminating the green of the leaves and imagine myself the heroine of the Pony Express as I zipped across fields and glades.  I realize now how much those unconstructed ramblings were the curriculum that fuelled my life, grounding in me a core understanding of my own interdependence to the earth and a cosmology that fostered an inherent sense of belonging.

It was in 1989, after attending a workshop called A Council of All Beings , given by John Seed, that I decided to devote this life to teaching children how all of life is interconnected.  We’re All Interconnected was my first song for kids about nature, and the rest is history!

Not long after those moments, I discovered a little book called The Medusa and the snail by  Lewis Thomas  This fascinating tale follows the life cycles of a particular jellyfish (the medusa) and a snail (the nudibranch).  The two creatures, living in the Bay of Naples, are thrown together in a bizarre symbiotic relationship that results in them both ingesting each other with the survival of their species literally depending upon this act!

Biologists studying the medusa had observed that it swallowed the spawn of the nudibranch, as it would other marine creatures.  However, they saw that the nudibranch spawn was not digested by the medusa but rather lodged itself inside the body and began to eat it from the inside out until the medusa ended up as a tiny appendage near the mouth of the enlarged nudibranch!

Under controlled observation it was established that neither the medusa nor the nudibranch would spawn if they did not undergo this process of ingestion and growing; in fact they seem to actually seek each other out in order to play out this bizarre life cycle!

I was quite captivated by this relationship and it sparked in me a voracious appetite to discover more about symbiosis and interrelationships in nature!  I thought that by introducing children to such incredible adventures of life, I could perhaps spark their curiosity and thirst for learning!

Therefore, in this Blog I would like to share with you some examples of species that hitch a ride and hopefully ignite your curiosity, so that you too might be moved to explore the subject with your students or children!

 I wrote the song Hitching a Ride about the Giant Harlequin beetle, (pictured above) which lives in the Panamanian rainforest.  Tiny creatures called Pseudoscorpions, also live in these forests and they feed on the wood of decaying fig trees. In order to travel to new trees in search of fresh food sources, they have developed a clever strategy; they hitch a ride under the wings of the Giant Harlequin beetle!  But wait, the story gets even better!  As the beetle flies off with the pseudoscorpions on board, an intricate mating game begins, with the males competing in a sexual dance for the most females!  The song describes it all in a fun way and I am sure older students will get a kick out of it!

Of course there are many other examples of species hitching rides that are not quite so colorful and which in fact have rather dire consequences for other species.  Some familiar ones would be ticks and chiggers both of which might have ended up on any of us as we trail out in the woods of many States and provinces in North America.

Then of course there are the invasive species, which wreak havoc on ecosystems in which they are introduced.  In Florida, for example, the introduction of giant boa constrictors is causing devastation to many native species.  Often these snakes are bought as pets and then released after owners find them to be too much to handle.  Here is some more information on Invasive Species in America.

Hawaii  provides plenty of opportunity to study species that have hitched a ride;  aside from the monk seal and the Hawaiian hoary bat, there are no mammals that are actually native to the island.  All living species that live in Hawaii arrived there by boat, wind or water.  Unfortunately, species like the feral pig, the rat and the mongoose hitched a ride in the boats of the first human inhabitants.  Today the fear is that the brown Guam tree snake will hitch a ride on a boat; if it does then many bird species would be at risk from predation by this snake. 

There are plenty of examples in the ocean of species hitching a ride on another species.  This photo shows remoras that are attached to a giant manta ray.  (Photo by Mila Zinkora/Wikipedia Commons)
It is commonly thought that the their relationship is one of Commensalism since the remoras feed on the scraps of food left by their host, and there does not seem to be a benefit to the ray.

Another story I discovered this week is one about a  sea horse– it seems that this one hitched a LONG ride on some floating weeds!
Lesson Plans:
1.     I have mentioned several species in this article that hitch a ride; ask the students to discover some others. Can they list the advantages for to these species of seeking rides on others species; for example the pseudoscorpions are freely transported to new food sources by riding on the harlequin beetles.
2.     Tell younger children the story of the sea horse or the Legend of the Hermit Thrush (below).  Invite them to draw some pictures of these animals that hitchhike on another! 
3.     Here are a bunch of Lesson Plans that I found, so rather than repeat them I am going to share the links: Invasive Species - Growing Native Plants  – Invasive Species Gamel – More Lesson Plans
4.     Planting native plant species is a good way to protect the ecosystems and habitats of your region.  Invite the kids to find out which plant species are native to your area and then have a fundraiser to raise funds to allow you to purchase some, and then plant them!

Interconnections! The subject matter for this particular blog is really all about interconnections!  The study of Mutualism is quite appropriate here;  Clown Fish provide an excellent example of mutualism.

Interconnections between plants and the species that pollinate offers more insight into interdependence.  On a trip to Kauai I had the good fortune to meet an incredible man, called Steve Perlman, a botanist who works with the  National Tropical Botanical Gardens.  Steve literally hung out from a helicopter to pollinate the alula plant (Brighamia) which was endangered due to the demise of a particular species of moth which had co-evolved with the plant and was, I believe, it's sole pollinator.  I have posted a video on my MySpace page Blog of Steve climbing the cliff face to reach the plant!  The views of Hawaii are quite spectacular and what he does is just incredible!  He is a truly Hero of our Planet!  Steve once shared with me that he spent the night camped out beside a loulu tree on the island of Molokai because it was the last of its kind and he wanted to keep it company!  I was really touched by that, and it made me think deeply about what it is to be endangered!  But that is for another Blog!

Story: The Legend of the Hermit Thrush – When I walked in the forest near my home in the Laurentian Mountains, I would hear the most beautiful song early in the morning and at dusk.  I could never see the bird singing this exquisite melody even though I tried my hardest to find out who it was!  Then one day I discovered this story and therein lay the answer.  The song of the Hermit thrush is beautiful; I am sure if you have heard it, you know what I mean!

And finally, the song!  I have uploaded Hitching a Ride to my MySpace page along with the lyrics.  It is a free download for as long as it is up there, otherwise it is available for purchase on iTunes. (Rosie Emery/We’re All Interconnected)

I hope you have fun with this subject – please let me know if I can be of any help and also if you have any feedback I would welcome it.  How can I make this Blog more interesting for you – suggestions etc.  I invite you to become a Fan of my Facebook page - I have just started it and intend to use it to explore further ways of incorporating songs and music into education.

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat
Match the beat of the universe,
To match your nature with nature.” Joseph Campbell

In joy and gratitude to the earth, and all life.

No comments:

Post a Comment