Friday, February 10, 2012

What's the difference, anyway? Animal Edition

Esky is inquisitive, and has an excellent memory.  So when she poses a question like, "Is this a seal?" pointing to something that looks an awful lot like a seal to me...I want to be sure I supply the right answer -- because her brain vault is going to lock up the sum of all she sees and file it away under "seal" / "sea lion" / "walrus."  My answer matters. If I'm not certain, I do exactly what I did when I was teaching other people's kids -- I say, "Let's look it up!" or "Let's research it together!"  I often did this when I already knew the answer too -- because modelling and supporting the skill of finding an answer is most often more valuable than proferring one on demand (when time is not at a premium).  But in this case, I wasn't sure of my answer.  I once knew it...but the knowledge was sleeping somewhere in the unused recesses of my mind.
So we looked it up together, and discussed the differences;
...and I decided I would remember sea lions have ear flaps like lions.  Done.
(what's what and why -- adaptation -- how to remember

Other Animal Kingdom / Paleaotology FAQ's revised, thus far, for my 2+-year-old:

Is that a...
  • cricket OR grasshopper? These two have loads of differences, but my first check is whether the insect is nocturnal or diurnal?   Do you already know which is which? I think of the sound of crickets by a campfire and hopping through grass visibly in the day.  The second check -- one makes its trademark sound by rubbing its leg against its wing, the other by rubbing its wings together -- which insect's name sounds like it would have strong legs, good for rubbing for sound?  /teacher-exaggo-wink.
  • crocodile OR an alligator? Whatever you're looking at and questioning, it's crocodilian -- so there's a cheat...beyond that, it's in the jaws and teeth and location, location, location.  Alligators stick to salt water, crocodiles can tolerate saltwater.  Not enough?  Crocs have V-shaped jaws, alligators are more like a U...and crocodiles have more visible teeth -- alligators' top teeth are only on display when their mouths are closed.  I remember the differences mostly by using silly stereotypes -- the tales of Crocodile Dundee are linked to more angular, toothier creatures in salt water, in my mind; alligators are what I saw lazing about in the mud in Florida's freshwater swamps -- more relaxed with less teeth and more round snouts...look out though, both crocs and alligators are found in one part of Florida!
  • pteranodon OR pteradactyl?  Easy -- since the first is one of the second -- pteradactyl are a class of flying lizards.
  • tortoise, turtle OR terrapin?  First, look at those feet -- are they made for walkin' or swimmin'?  Tortoises are land creatures, turtles are water-dwellers (although they venture onto land to lay their eggs).  Terrapin are the wild card hybrid, but they're found in and around fresh water instead of the sea.  Technically, you can answer that any of these are a turtle (by class) -- if you want to cheat.
  • male OR female bee? Esky asked...and I should have been able to conclusively answer, quickly.  I didn't.  I blame popular culture.  Despite what the king in The King and I would have you believe, a man is not like a bee that needs to go from flower to flower...since that's the job of worker bees -- that would be, the females.  The male drones do not sting and do not hang out amongst the dandelions of my lawn.  So ah, Sesame Street -- that epi where a Mr Bee orientates two "bees for a day," magically experiencing such thanks to Abby's amateur wand use,...yeah, in that, Mr Bee shouldn't say, "WE collect the nectar and the pollen," because he doesn't.  He don't. do-eeeet.*   

Have you done any relearning / learning / study / brushing up so that you're ready to answer a young enquiring mind?

*I know, a bee is talking, and I yet expect my children's television to be "factually" accurate.  I didn't need to do any revision to know that the male cow on Barnyard should not have udders. Nor is Curious George an example of a "cheeky monkey," (monkeys have tails, apes do not).  It's tricky to strike the balance of truth and fiction with anthropomorphic animals, eh?
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