FREDERICKTOWN — Professional magician Bill Maxwell combined prestidigitation with entomology to delight Fredericktown elementary students and their teachers during an interactive, multimedia “ed-fun-cational” program at the school on Friday.
In the persona of Dr. Insecta, Maxwell introduced the children to some of the largest insects in the world, the first one being a Madagascar cockroach over 3 inches long. When the pupils reacted with screams — of delight, or maybe fright — Dr. Insecta told them, “There’s no reason to scream. It won’t do any good, because most insects can’t hear.”
The students assisted Dr. Insecta in naming the bug’s body parts, and discovered it has six legs and four wings. Pupil Nicole Groseclose volunteered to hold the giant cockroach, then one of the teachers, somewhat unwillingly, caused it to make a hissing noise as Dr. Insecta held it. She jumped back, startled at the sound it made, and the audience jumped, then laughed, along with her.
The next creature was “magically” created from powder of arachnid. That was a rose tarantula named Morticia; Morticia helped demonstrate the difference between arachnids and cockroaches. Student Street McCullough “wore” Morticia on his shirt for a time as Dr. Insecta described her features, and informed the students that tarantulas can live over 20 years in captivity.
A sketch done with two students and non-realistic artificial lady bugs showcased Maxwell’s sleight-of-hand skills, and things turned serious again when an emperor scorpion named Darth Vader appeared.
Pointing out Darth Vader’s characteristics, Dr. Insecta said she was so named due to her shiny black appearance. He said there are more than 1,300 different types of scorpions, but only about 26 species are venomous. Seemingly on cue, Darth Vader then produced two small beads of venom.
Dr. Insecta next asked the pupils to point out their favorite teacher. Four staff members so nominated were front and center as Dr. Insecta talked about insects as good sources of protein which are consumed by 75 percent of the world’s population. With a lot of encouragement from the students, the four teachers sampled the cooked, desiccated and cheese-flavored meal worms.
To conclude the program, Dr. Insecta turned pupil Emma Hawkins into an insect, and left the students with this bit of trivia: For every one person on this earth, there are 200 million insects.
As they left the gymnasium, the kindergartners talked about the show. They said it was very fun, but, “when the boy holded [sic] the spider, it was horrifying.” Most of the students said they really enjoyed watching the teachers eat bugs.
In addition to the educational show about insects, Maxwell also does standard magic shows; presents one called the Funny Side of Thought, which explores the magic of the mind; and performs as Captain Maxwell, the world’s first magic pirate. For more information visit amazingmaxwell.com.