Differentiation:  Are you a Crab or a Mola Mola?

Differentiation:  Are you a Crab or a Mola Mola?

Differentiating curriculum means using different methods so that students can acquire, apply, analyze, and synthesize new content, ideas, approaches, and solutions.

How can we respond to the challenge of differentiating curriculum for all learners?

Perhaps a recent tour of the Monterey Bay offers insights into professional practice preferences and the efficacy of each.

The Monterrey Bay includes 34 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, at least 525 species of fishes, and an abundance of seaweeds (Link).

Two of these species are the Decorator crab and the Mola Mola fish.

Decorator crabs that inhabit the kelp beds of the Monterey Bay hid their spindly appendages by attaching bits of kelp and other sea materials to their bodies. Decorator Crabs do that so that they can camouflage and blend in to their surroundings. They work with almost “most human and purposeful process” (Bateson, 1889).  The Decorator Crabs of the Monterey Bay rarely leave their warm, coastal environment. Rarely will you find a Catch of the Day special of Decorator Crab on the menu. 

The Monterey Bar sometimes is the weekend getaway destination of the Mola Mola. Mola Molas are strange fish who live in the dark, open, deep waters of the ocean. They can grow from baby birth weight of a few ounces to the size of a Mini Cooper (2200 pounds)! Their flat, buffet-table-sized torso attracts all types of parasites. When Mola Molas are invaded by too many parasites, they float higher and toward the Monterey Bay so that other shallow water fish such as the half-moon fish can pinch and dislodge the pa

If this modification strategy is not completely successful, then the Mola Mola rises even closer to the surface of the Monterey Bay and tilts on its side. This seafood platter position attracts a seagull who happily pecks the parasites in exchange for a lunch fast-food lunch.

The Mola Mola has learned different strategies to reach its goal of harmony. 

Does the problem-solving approach of the Decorator Crab or the Mola Mola appeal to you? 

In meeting the needs of all learners, are you more likely to blend-in to your school environment and cover yourself with excuses, packed schedules, and one size fits all teaching practices in order to avoid learning and implementing new instructional methods for differentiation? 

Or does the variety of problem-solving approaches of the Mola Mola fit your approach to differentiation?

Baby Beluga! That’s a whale of a metaphor to consider!


Bateson, William (1889). “Notes on the Senses and Habits of some Crustacea”. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. new series. 1: 211–214. doi:10.1017/S0025315400058045.

Monterey Bay Aquarium https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/visit/monterey-area/monterey-bay-national-marine-sanctuary

Photos of Decorator Crab and Mola Mola Fish are from Wikipedia