The Life of a Caterpillar

The life of a caterpillar is led by one simple task: EAT! They hatch out from an egg smaller than a grain of rice and have about a week to grow to the full caterpillar size. They will then have to find a safe place to attach themselves, become a chrysalis, and hang around for several weeks until they are ready to become a butterfly. It is one of the most amazing things to see first-hand. It is a great way to welcome spring if you can get your hands on some caterpillars!

I brought in some caterpillars from my flower garden and was surprised to hear all the “ewws” and “yuckies” coming from my preschool students. Yes, they all knew that a butterfly came from a caterpillar, but most thought the creatures in the new habitat were bad worms.
caterpillar

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars

Now, we count the days they are eating and hope to see a chrysalis soon. That will only lead to more counting as we wait for a butterfly, but counting is good!

The Heart Shape Returns

The great wait begins. First, the weather doesn’t cooperate. Then, several of the caterpillars escape before they even make it to the preschool science room.

chrysalis

Finally, I have secured some eggs and they hatch! NOW, we must provide them with food until they are big enough to turn into chrysalis. There are many other things we can do until then, like look for heart shapes around us.

The shape of a heart is often found in nature. Flowers and leaves come in the shape of a heart. Three green hearts make a Shamrock. Have a live shamrock on display for children to see. Press some of its leaves and laminate it.

shamrock

One of my waiting stations has a stamp pad activity for making shamrocks. Three green hearts stamped close together make a shamrock! Ask children to write their names on their artwork, or at least the first letter. While my activities are not holiday activities in general, they sometimes reflect what is happening in our culture.

shamrockprint

After three hearts come… Four hearts. Yes, I do have a rhyme for this.

Counting Hearts

One heart means “I love you.”
For a valentine you will need two.
Three hearts make a shamrock nearby
While four can be a butterfly.

Later in the month, I change stamp pads from green to pink and blue for the butterflies.

Theme for March – Butterflies and Moths

Traditionally, March is a good month for a butterfly theme, but this year has been colder and the butterflies are absent from our yard.  That doesn’t keep our preschool classroom from being on a butterfly alert!  Be on the look out because they will be here soon.

I start the theme by replacing book and puzzle activities and introducing two songs:

Little Caterpillar
(Tune: Itsy Bitsy Spider)
The little caterpillar crawled up into a tree
Turned into a chrysalis and slept so quietly
He slept a dozen days and didn’t make a sound
And he dreamed of his new life
When he could fly around.

Crawling Caterpillar
(Tune: Are You Sleeping)
See the caterpillar
See the caterpillar
Watch him crawl
Watch him crawl
See him eating all the leaves
When he’s finished, he will go
And crawl away
And crawl away

The children are on the lookout 24/7 for caterpillars. Caution should be taken because there are a few unfriendly caterpillars and a few that cause allergic reactions. I stick with the Gulf Fritillary, Monarch, and Painted Lady. They are the easiest to identify and are quick-growing. If you are trying to attract butterflies, then you must be sure to buy plants that have NOT been treated or sprayed. If it will kill an insect, it will kill a caterpillar or butterfly.

Patterns Everywhere

As we finish up the unit on polymers there are two important points to remember.

  • Polymers are a result of long chains of patterns.
  • Polymers consist of two states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, or plasma).

The students have discovered that the patterns are all around the classroom. They are not limited to beads or shapes or even colors.

pattern

Understanding how this is important to polymers may be a concept they do not totally grasp, but exposure to the science will be helpful later in life.  Allowing them to explore with color and light will give their minds two more ways to remember the experience.

polymer

At the Light Table are bottles with flower beads that we watched grow.  Food coloring was added to the water to see if the beads would change (drain the water and seal lids with tape).  Translucent papers reflect even more colors and we recorded what the students observed.

More About Polymers

Most things around us are called a solid, liquid, gas, or even plasma. When things exhibit properties of more than one of these they are called polymers. They exist in a kind of in-between state. You can help children see this by creating a polymer using liquid starch, white glue, and water. Call it gak, goop, or slime, they will learn an important science lesson about the states of matter.

Slime

1 part water
1 part white craft glue (like Elmer’s glue)
1 part liquid starch (used for clothes)
Food coloring (optional)
Mixing bowl
Mixing spoon

Pour the glue into the mixing bowl.
Add the water to the mixing bowl with the glue.
Stir the glue and water together.
Add and stir in about 6 drops of food coloring.
Now add the liquid starch and stir it in.
It should be nice and gooey by now. It becomes stretchy and easier to hold as it is kneaded.
Store it in a zip bag when you are not using it.

slime

Glue is already a polymer. The tiny molecules in the glue are in strands like a chain. When liquid starch is added, the strands of the polymer glue hold together, giving it its slimy feel. The new form can be drizzled, stretched or broken.

Theme for February – Polymers

The season is a good time to introduce longer patterns. It can be a part of the holiday activities or you can choose any shape. Patterns can be short like on the front of a card. The Sticky Board is set up with colored squares and hearts in pink and red. Talk to the students about their creations and what they are doing. If they say cards, take dictation about why they are making the cards and who they would send them to. If possible, take a snapshot of the board before another student uses it.

heartsb

Patterns can be long like necklaces. In molecules long patterns are sometimes called polymers. Examples of polymers around us are rubber, silk, wool, and plastic. Cards with premade patterns are fun to match. Blank cards help children be creative. Encourage the students to make their own patterns.

heartsb2

These cards are not limited to this season either. Change the shapes or colors. Use foam from the craft store to make the shapes. The students enjoy this activity and it is an important concept for learning in math.

Theme for January – Crystals

Crystals we see everyday are table salt, sugar, ice, snow, quartz and diamond. A crystal is formed by an arrangement of atoms, molecules, or ions. Because of the repeated units, crystals have recognizable structures.

The real fun is in seeing crystals form. Salt, sugar, borax and alum make the best crystals, but there are safety factors to be recognized. Small children will often put things in their mouth and swallow them. These activities are to be monitored by an adult at all times.

This year borax had the best result for our science classroom. It dissolved quickly and the crystals started growing as soon as the solution cooled.

Materials:
A pencil with attached string and paper clip
Wide-mouthed jar
Borax
Boiling water
Food coloring (optional)
Adult supervision

Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour into the jar. This is a job for an adult! Add 3 tablespoons of borax per each cup of water and stir. Everyone gets a turn stirring. It’s alright if some borax settles to the bottom of the jar. If you want colored crystals, stir in some food coloring.

crystalsetup

Balance the pencil across the jar mouth so the string and paper clip are suspended in the middle of the jar. Keep the jar somewhere where it is safe from being disturbed, but is easily viewed. Monitor it carefully until the solution is cooled. Chart results by the hour. Have children write about their discoveries in their journals.

saltcrystal

So, what did we do and why is it science? When the borax is in with the water, a suspension is created. A suspension is a mixture that contains solid particles large enough to settle out. By mixing the borax into hot water, instead of room temperature or cold water, the borax stays suspended longer within the water. As the borax begins to settle out, or sediment, it begins to crystallize. The crystals cling to the string and to the sides of the jar as well as the bottom. The borax continues to sediment on the string and you have crystals!

Everyday Crystals Are Amazing

Children love to watch crystals form. They are most interested in the natural crystals we see every day (salt, sugar and ice). The first unit in the new year involves taking a look at the common crystals and their properties. The first area to see a change is the Discovery Area. Make or buy white play dough and add opal glitter. Provide dough tools and this simple activity will add strength to the fine motor skills and inspire creativity.

snowdough

Snow Playdough

Ingredients
½ cup salt
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil (coconut oil works great)
White liquid water color

What you do
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized saucepan.
Add liquid water color to the water to get a white color.
Add colored water and coconut oil to dry ingredients.
Stir over heat until dough is pliable.

Once playdough is cool enough, kneed in some opal glitter.

Allow to cool and store in a well sealed plastic bag or container.

Sticky Board Tree

The trimming of a tree is a tradition in many households around the world in December. There are different views about food, family and gift giving depending on the culture. The tree sticky board allows students to decorate a tree and choose for themselves colors and items to be placed on the tree. This freedom allows not only creativity to grow, it also helps critical thinking skills to develop. Sharing and cooperation go hand and hand when several students participate in this activity together.

treesb

A fingerplay acted out on the sticky board helps children to visualize what their fingers are representing. As they hold up fingers to count the candles they can take turns putting candles on the tree:
 

FIVE LITTLE CANDLES

Five little candles twinkling on the tree.
The first one said, “What do you see?”
The second one said, “I see Santa big and jolly.”
The third one said, “I see Christmas wreathes or holly.”
The fourth one said, “What do you hear?”
The fifth one said, “Children singing loud and clear,”
A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

xmastree

Theme for December – Traditions

Theme for December- Traditions

Traditions play a major role in every family. Traditions tell stories about a family, help individuals discover where they come from, and help them to remember their culture. The family bond is strengthened through traditions by providing a chance to do something that is special. Children love traditions because they offer comfort and security when other things change around them. December is a month of traditional activity. There are many holidays, family gatherings, and time off from regular schedules to lend to having time to do special activities that will long remain in the memory of a child!

Cookie baking is a winter activity I remember as a child. I turned the sensory area into a cookie making area using gingerbread playdough, cookie cutters and rolling pins.

Gingerbread Playdough

Ingredients
½ cup salt
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil (coconut oil works great)
Food coloring

What you do
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized saucepan.
Add food coloring to the water to get a tan color.
Add colored water and coconut oil to dry ingredients.
Stir over heat until dough is pliable.

Once playdough is cool enough, kneed in:
2 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice

gingerbplaydough