by Karen Lunde for OLY ARTS
Although few people welcome ants parading across their kitchen counter, the students in Julia Abrams’ first and second grade class at Hansen Elementary are getting excited to put the industrious insects on parade for this year’s Procession of the Species.
“I’ve been bringing my class to the Procession of the Species every year I’ve been teaching,” said Abrams. In the past, her students have studied a local habitat, with one choosing a specific animal from that habitat and researching it before becoming that animal for the Procession. This year, Abrams took her class in a different direction. “One of the students’ moms is an entomologist and taught us about insects,” she said. “That got me thinking about maybe doing something with insects for the parade. I remember being totally captivated by leafcutter ants when I lived in Costa Rica, and I could just picture all the kids following in a squiggly line like the ants. I know I like to walk in all kinds of squiggles as much as possible when I’m the line leader. That’s how I got the idea.”
Leafcutter is the non-generic name for any of 47 species of leaf-chewing ants endemic to South and Central America, Mexico and parts of the southern United States. They’re named for their habit of cutting and carrying leaves back to their underground nests. The ants don’t eat the leaves, however. Instead, they use them to grow underground fungus gardens that provide them with food. A leafcutter ant can carry fragments that are up to 20 times their own body weight.
Abrams said that when she was growing up, she remembered making a banner for a similar parade. “I loved making art and building things. I loved projects,” she recalled. “Now, I get to do it all over again with a bunch of kids and watch them create the most amazing creations. I can’t imagine not doing it. It is hands-down my favorite thing about teaching.”
Procession of the Species
4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28
From Jefferson St. and Legion Way to Water St. and Capitol Way, Olympia