And Then There Were Moths!

An Imperial Moth Caterpillar was brought to the enrichment room back in the late fall of 2013. A habitat was quickly put together and the caterpillar would not eat or rest. I knew they pupated underground and made sure the sand was deep in the little enclosure. By morning the caterpillar was gone! All that was left was a small hole in the sand. Then we waited.

The same day the butterflies started hatching out popped a moth!

pupa

This is the casing the caterpillar rested in for the winter.

new moth

The wings of the moth were small, but lots of pumping they were able to grow!

imperal moth

This moth is a beauty.

The Butterflies Are Here!

Sometimes life can get VERY busy and there seems to be little time to get the things done that one would WANT to do. The good news is: The monarch butterflies hatched anyway! Students in our first classroom session saw movement in the habitat and spent most of the morning watching the butterfly pull itself out of the chrysalis.

butterfly hatching

The wings are small and limp, but grow as the butterfly pumps them.

new butterfly

I have a 24 hour rule about keeping butterflies. There is butterfly food on cotton balls so the next day’s class can see the butterfly and then it will be released.

monarch butterfly

All 5 butterflies hatched and were released. They will search out milkweed and lay more eggs to continue their life cycle. Keep in mind that when plants are sprayed to control insects, this will also kill butterflies. Most of us do not spray milkweed! Other butterflies like plants, though, that might be sprayed. The Giant Swallowtail eats citrus plants like the orange, lemon, tangerine and kumquat. Anise Swallowtail eats Parsley, Fennel, and Dill. The Gulf Fritillary eats Passionvine.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds look like teeny, tiny beans and have some interesting properties. The outside of the Chia seed is covered in tiny hair like fibers. When the seed is wet, these almost-invisible tiny fibers stand on end and begin trapping liquid. A Chia seed can hold 9 times the weight of the seed in water! This action causes a bead of gel to form around the seed.

See this in action by adding 1/4 cup of water with 2 teaspoons of Chia seeds. Stir the mixture and watch it thicken. Let the seeds soak while getting a clay pot or several small clay pots. You will also need a draining dish, cotton balls, and something to spread the seeds on the pot.

Rinse the clay pot in water and then stuff the clay pot with cotton balls and set it in the draining dish.

chiaseeds

Now the pot is ready for the Chia seeds to be “pasted” on its sides. This can get messy because the seeds will stick to everything. Cover the pot, allowing room at the bottom so the water in the draining dish will not touch the seeds and allow it to sit for a few minutes so the seeds will stay put. Add water in the draining dish. The cotton balls will absorb water and keep the pot moist. Then watch for 5 loooooong days. There is still lots to do. Mist the seeds several times a day and make sure there is water in the draining dish.

chiasprouts

Sometimes, as early as 3 days there will be small sprouts visible. Have several magnifying glasses on hand to get a closer look.

chiaseedssproutchiaseedsgrow

Over the next week the sprouts will grow until the pot is covered with tiny green Chia sprouts.

snailterrarium

The snails in the classroom terrarium discovered that Chia sprouts are a good treat.

Theme for April – Beans and Eggs

Springtime! Flowers bloom, gardens grow, and baby critters are found everywhere. What is the science of all of this? Time to investigate beans and eggs!

All school children sooner or later sprout something. Beans, avocado seeds, and Chia seeds are three good starters. Beans and Chia seeds sprout quickly. The avocado seed takes longer, but will produce a bigger plant.

beanswater

Soaking beans in water is the first step. Bottles made it easy to see how a full bottle of beans can hold more water than it looks like. Beans should be moved to a more open container to absorb the water or they will get stuck (We learned that the hard way).

peelbeans

Allow students to peel the beans and look for the bean “germ”. They will be amazed at how small a plant is in the beginning.

beansgerm

This hands on experience can be used as a journaling event. Seeds can be planted in a root farm to let students view their growth. Charts can be kept as the plant grows. Have fun growing beans!

Insect Life

Butterflies and Moths are insects, a spider is not. Spiders has eight legs and eyes which quickly take them out of the insect family.

Butterflies and moths are special insects because they have wings and bodies that are very much alike and yet, very different.

BUTTERFLIES:
Are be colourful.
Are diurnal and the daylight makes their colors showy.
Pupate in a hard chrysalis.
Rest with their wings closed and directly over their backs
Have thinner bodies and antenna.

MOTHS:
Are be drably colored pale colours.
Are be nocturnal and low light levels will show pale colors.
Pupate inside a cocoon, spun out of silk and sometimes nearby materials like leaves
Rest with their wings closed and directly over their backs.
Have fuzzy, stockier bodies and antenna.

While waiting for butterflies and moths in the Science Lab to hatch out, students learn insect body parts by singing a fingerplay with a familiar tune:

Insect Body Parts
(Sung to the tune Head and Shoulder, Knees, and Toes)

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!
Six legs, two antennae, with eyes and sometimes wings.
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

insect playdough

They also create insects with playdough.

All of this can be used when the students write in their journals. They can draw pictures about what they see and teachers can take story dictation about what they are thinking as they draw. This hands on with song and actual insects to watch helps students remember what they have learned about the insect’s life.

Waiting for the Butterflies!

Spring has been very busy. The butterflies took their time arriving this year. Some of the caterpillars were not as hearty as previous years. We have pictures of the little critters on the milkweed brought in by a parent.

mbflyegg

The milkweed was purchased at a local nursery that does not spray its plants. It already had small eggs on the plant.

mbflyhatch

Within a week the eggs started hatching.

mbflycaterpillar

The caterpillars munched on leaves for about ten days.

mbflychrysalis

The last thing to appear was the chrysalis.

Our  first butterfly  did hatch after 12 days, but its wings were not formed correctly. Another hatched over the weekend and had to be released. So now we wait for another. This project takes care and patience, but is so amazing to watch.

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.