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Eliam Adane studies an exoskeleton, the shell from which a cicada emerged.

The long-awaited Brood X cicadas have been emerging all over Fairfax County Public Schools’ grounds in the last few days, as they wake from their 17-year slumber.

At Belvedere Elementary School in Falls Church, this has meant students are coming face to face with the insects they have been studying in class this past month.

Thanks to the work of environmental educators Andrea Auerbach and Stacey Evers, librarian Marcie Atkins and resource teacher Ellen Rogers, children across all grades have grown fascinated with all things cicada.

“We started by learning about cicadas in the classroom,” said Auerbach. “At the same time our librarian began working on cicada-themed stories and we have multiple other activities both inside and outdoors to peak the students’ interests. There has been a lot of excitement and the children have been very engaged. Their enthusiasm has been wonderful to see.”

As the temperature of the in-ground thermometers that are dotted across the leafy campus grew, so did the children’s anticipation.

During a trip to their lush courtyard last week, shrieks of excitement - and horror - rang out as a group of third grade students peered through magnifying glasses in search of the insects.

It wasn’t long before they found what they were looking for.

“Exoskeletons!,” yelled Eliam Adane as he discovered the abandoned shells the creatures had crawled from that were littering the ground. “Ewww….I found one over here too,” said Maxwell Findler.

As the others ran over to inspect, Auerbach arrived with a giant orange cicada shell collection bucket marked “How many can we find?

Collecting exoskeletons is just one of the multiple cicada-related activities happening at Belvedere that include a contest to find the rare blue or white-eyed species and cicada bingo with children marking off activities on a grid that include ‘‘saw a cicada nymph’, ‘saw a cicada flying’ and even ‘ate a cooked cicada.’

Along with cicada-themed stories, librarian Atkins has been working with choice boards and put together a ‘how to draw an insect’ story walk.

Resource teacher Ellen Rogers designed a ‘Wanted’ poster to encourage students to hunt for the rare blue or white-eyed species.

For the students and staff alike, Brood X is proving to be a fascinating learning experience.

Last week, in the courtyard, the third graders worked on the life cycle while swapping stories about their observations both at school and in their neighborhoods.

“I’m finding them all over the place,” said Emma Lyttle “Me and my brother found eight this morning.  It was like they were having a cicada party!”

As the outdoor class drew to a close, excitement reached fever pitch with the discovery of a live insect that some were even brave enough to hold.

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The students named this live cicada ‘Grippy.’

“Can I hold it? Does it hurt? What shall we name it?, the children asked. “Hello little friend,” said Emma. “I think we will call you Grippy because your legs are gripping to my skin.”

Auerbach vividly remembers the last emergence in 2004 and her memories are not pleasant ones.

“I was incredibly freaked out by the cicadas, she recalled. “I remember them being everywhere, sweeping them off the sidewalk, and having them fly into me. I vowed that next time around I would be taking an extended vacation.

“But now, as an environmental educator, I wasn’t about to leave.”

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