Aug 26: Get arty with striped vases

Make some painted vases…

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • The top image of the lamprey is pretty spectacular – can you see the eye, the “circular, murdurous-looking maw of hooks, which is used to fasten to prey,” and the “tough, mechanical rasp of a tongue which scrapes away scales and skin to get to the tissue below”? If you could invent a new name for the lamprey, what would you choose?
  • The article says that lampreys have been around since the “dim mists of the Devonian” – do you know about any of the major developments of this period of prehistory, or which other animals are associated with what is sometimes called The Age of the Fishes? Do some investigating if you’d like to know more.
  • The lamprey and its relative, the hagfish, are mentioned as being the only two species out of 45,000 marine animals that never developed jaws. How have they managed without them? See if you can find out how the hagfish manages without them. Find out what a “relic” is if you can.
  • Hydro dams have “evicted lamprey from many of their ancestral spawning grounds.” Can you explain in your own words why hydro power stations are challenging for lamprey looking to spawn? What do you think we could do to fix this problem?
  • Ecologist Jane Kitson is quoted as saying “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful, yet so strange. It’s almost as if they’re not from this world.” Looking at all the photos in the article, could you possibly agree with Kitson that lamprey are beautiful? Do you think we should take action to preserve such a strange creature – why and/or why not?

Language Focus

“So the lampreys’ conquest of the Great Lakes is a bit like a mob of Neanderthals taking over Wall Street. The oldest lamprey fossil—laid down when the earliest vertebrates first tottered onto land—looks much the same as the one that accosted Swain. A lot like an eel: sinuous, slimy and scaleless. But their fins don’t come in pairs, as in most other fish. In fact, asymmetry is something of a trait: lampreys bear a single nostril on the top of their head, and their trademark below it—a circular, murderous-looking maw of hooks, which they use to fasten to prey. At the centre, a structure more appalling still: a tough, mechanical rasp of a tongue that scrapes away scales and tissue to get to the blood beneath.”

  1. In the first sentence, what are the connotations of the word “conquest?” How does this carefully chosen word help us understand what the lampreys have done in the Great Lakes?
  2. Why do you think the writer compares the lampreys to Neanderthals taking over Wall Street?
  3. What language techniques (there are two) are used in the phrase “sinuous, slimy and scaleless”?
  4. In describing the lamprey’s feeding apparatus, the writer uses a number of emotive words: can you spot any?
  5. Try replacing each of the following powerful verbs with a more pedestrian (ordinary) synonym: tottered, bear, fasten. What happens to the sentence?

Answers: 1. Conquest refers to the age of exploration and implies military strength and dominance. This helps us understand that lampreys have successfully subdued and taken over the other species. 2. This emphasises that the lampreys are very primitive and lack sophistication yet have somehow managed to become dominant in a much more advanced setting. 3. Listing and alliteration. 4. Words such as murderous-looking, maw, appalling, tough. 5. Tottered – walked. Bear – have. Fasten – hold on. Our imagination is not as stimulated by the ordinary words as it is by the humorous, interesting ones.

Activity: Striped vases

Bring the best of the 70s to your vase collection with this retro-inspired colour scheme.

You will need:

  • Glass vases
  • Masking tape
  • Paintbrush
  • Primer (if you have it)
  • Paint in your choice of colours

Step 1: Use a primer to paint a basecoat on the vases and leave to dry. If you don’t have any, just whack on a first coat best you can.

Step 2: Tape up the sections for the stripes.

Step 3: Paint the stripes, using our example as a guide. As there are various colours, you’ll end up painting some of the stripes and leaving them to dry, and then masking off for the other stripes and painting them. Remove the low tack masking tape and allow to fully dry.

Step 4: Your vases are ready to be filled with the fresh seasonal flowers and foliage.

Step 5: Send us a picture of your striped vases!