Northfield, Community

‘Like hard chicken’: Avoca West students chow down on cicadas for charity

How do you celebrate a cicada-infested summer? Eat them for a good cause, of course. 

Cicadapalooza took off at Avoca West Elementary School on Thursday, June 6, punctuating students’ last week of school. It was a fun day that featured games, races and a special once-in-a-17-year opportunity. 

The last time the area saw the 17-year brood of cicadas was in 2007, nearly six years before the Avoca West fifth-graders were born. 

Ivy Reynolds lines up a cicada during the Avoca event.

With a donation, students, parents and faculty could choose from an array of cicadas on which to feast.

Heather Stone, an instructional assistant, and Jennifer Rajab, a Learning Behavior Specialist, were tasked with preparing grilled and air-fried cicadas. Those brave enough to indulge also had several sauces to choose from. Stone made cicada chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-covered cicadas ready for anyone with a sweet tooth. 

Dr. Kaine Osburn, Superintendent of District 37 and a self-proclaimed cicada-eating ”pro,” brought this idea over from his time as assistant principal of Niles West High School.

“When it was coming up again, nobody was suggesting we do it,” Osburn said. “I got a few staff members that were excited, and then we peer pressured everybody else into doing it.” 

Superintendent Dr. Kaine Osborne prepares to eat one of several cicadas he consumed on the day.

The event was a clear success. Students hoarded the prepared-cicada table, many returning several times to prove their bravery. The reactions to the fried bugs varied. Some said they tasted good, while others spit them out.

Cicadapolooza allowed the students to step outside their comfort zone and get up close and personal with the creepy crawlies. 

“They are having fun,” Osburn said. “A lot of kids who would say ‘ew bugs’ or ‘I’m not going to do something gross’ now they don’t have that barrier. I told their parents, if they’re ever picky about eating again, hold this over their head because there’s no way it’s worse than this.”

Dylan Gibori holds in a bite of cicada.

One student, Brandon Sander, took the risk and ate one of the air-fried cicadas.

“It tasted like hard chicken,” he said, giving the cicada 2/10 on The Record’s “gross scale” and clarifying that he would never eat a live one.

While the buzz remained focused on the cicadas, the event also served as an opportunity for the Avoca West community to support students and peers. According to Osburn, the $1,300 donated will go to the Viking Fund, a community fund used to support fee waivers for families in the district who qualify.

Students and parents could donate $1 to eat a cicada. For a $5 to $20 donation, faculty members, including Dr. Osburn, Assistant Superintendent Kristen Moore and incoming Superintendent Dr. Sandra Arreguin, would eat one. 

Avoca 37 Assistant Superintendent Kristen Moore opens wide for a cicada as part of the fundraiser.

Cicadapalooza proved to be a spirited way to wind down the school year and get students excited for a cicada-filled summer. It was also quite a send-off for Osburn, who is retiring after this school year.

“They don’t remember me for the algebra and the reading but they’ll remember me for the fun stuff,” he said.

According to Scientific American, cicadas are safe to eat and can be safely served in various ways, including how the staff prepared them at Avoca West. Time magazine reports that they are known to be high in protein and eco-friendly compared to poultry and cattle.

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