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Lights, Camera, Action!

Originally appears in the Summer 2017 issue

“Lights, Camera, Action!” Right on cue, the first grader wearing a yellow cape pops up, flings out her arms, and shouts, “Rise and shine!” Beside her, an alga draped in green grows taller, and the entire class joins him in chanting, “photosynthesis, photosynthesis, photosynthesis.” The aquatic snail creeps into action then, pretending to rasp the plant with his radula and delivering the line, “munch, munch, munch.” He doesn’t have long to eat though because soon the dragonfly nymph zooms in from offstage, flings out her hydraulically powered jaws, and exclaims, “gotcha!”

At this point, the audience giggles but stays focused in anticipation of the next bit of drama. They’ve seen it before, so they know what’s coming. The insect’s line of travel takes her right in front of a hungry bluegill, and he responds with his own playful attack and a satisfied, “slurp!” As the well-fed bluegill swims away, its luck runs out. A great blue heron lurks nearby, primed and ready with a kitchen tong beak, “yum!” After her fish snack, the heron crumples to the ground, a victim of old age. The crayfish scuttles in, drawing more giggles with his comment, “mmm, dead stuff!” Finally, four aquatic worms from the front row wiggle toward the feast on their bellies chanting, “decomposition, decomposition, decomposition.” The room erupts in applause and the actors take their bow.

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Emily M. Stone is a naturalist who spent her childhood spent as a “mud and water daughter” in northeast Iowa. She has taught students of all ages about nature in beautiful places from Maine to California. As the Naturalist/Education Director at the Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, Wisconsin, Emily writes a weekly “Natural Connections” column published in more than a dozen local and regional newspapers. Her first book, Natural Connections: Exploring Northwoods Nature through Science and Your Senses, is on sale now at cablemuseum.org.

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