Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chasing Dragonflies for Science Class

At the beginning of this year, I took up photography when I bought a new camera. I decided that as a blogger, I needed a better camera. I just couldn't get the close-ups I wanted with the camera we had.

This lead to an obsession with macrophotography, specifically dragonflies. Consequently, Sam became obsessed with dragonflies as well, so I turned it into a learning experience and began teaching her everything I was learning about the insects. She thorughly enjoyed learning about them, and goes out with me anytime I "chase dragonflies" (as she calls it).

A male Golden Winged Skimmer


Here are some facts about dragonflies that Sam and I have learned during the summer:

  • Dragonflies, like most insects, have compound eyes. This means their eyes are made up of over 30,000 tiny little eyes with their own corneas and retinas, which are called ommatidia. 
  • They have three ocelli located on the vertex, which is the central area located between and in front of the eyes. These ocelli are concentrated with eye cells and allow the dragonfly to track their prey. 
  • Dragonflies are able to see visible light like you and I can see, but they can also see ultraviolet and polarized light, which helps them to navigate their surroundings. 
  • With two sets of iridescent wings, dragonflies can fly in just about every direction, including reverse. 
  • They use a direct flight mechanism, meaning that each wing is attached to its own muscle and can be moved independently. This makes dragonflies much stronger fliers than just about any other insect. 
  • Dragonflies have been clocked flying at speeds of 36 mph in Australia.
  • They are really old insects. Fossils of dragonflies with wingspans of 2.5 feet have been found in Kansas that are from the Permian Period.

This little blue dasher dragonfly let Sam get within inches of it!
Sam and I are currently reading Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson. Although it's a field guide for identifying dragonflies, the beginning of the book has a wealth of information on the anatomy of dragonflies and damselflies complete with diagrams, which makes it easy to teach Sam how to tell males from females. If you're interested in dragonflies, I highly recommend this book.

There is also quite a bit of pagan folk tale associated with dragonflies. For example, it's good luck if a dragonfly lands on you, and if you see one in your dreams, it means to be cautious - the truth is being hidden from you. (For more information on dragonflies, and to see more of my dragonfly photography, visit my article on Hubpages.)

I love the time Sam and I get when we chase dragonflies together. I get to teach her about how to enjoy nature, as well as share my knowledge of dragonflies, which is great for an unschooling science class. But it's also bonding time for us, and that's the best part.

Happy Homeschooling!

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