The Very Busy Caterpillar

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Last week, one of our students discovered a big, green caterpillar who was walking along the sidewalk that leads to our parking lot. We brought the plump little guy into the classroom so that the other children could observe him as well. After placing him in a clear container, we noticed that he had positioned himself near one of the top corners of the container and had started making long strands of silk from one side of the container to the other. Some students thought that perhaps he was growing more hair, while others knew right away that he was making a cocoon.

With the help of our fabulous science teacher, Ms. Capezzuti, we learned that our new friend was a Polyphemus caterpillar and would eventually turn into a moth. We also learned that Polyphemus caterpillars are silk caterpillars and can easily be reared indoors, so we decided to let our him finish making his cocoon in our container and release him after his metamorphosis. According to our research, he should emerge from his cocoon in about a week. In the meantime, we observed him while he finished making his cocoon and have been noticing what he looks like now that he is in his pupal case. We are looking forward to seeing him emerge from his cocoon, stretch and dry his wings, and then release him back into the wild! Yay, science!

 

Mission Observation Spider

We found an excellent orb weaver specimen on the playground!

Magical Moments

 

One of the most exciting aspects of an outdoor classroom are the magical moments that occur spontaneously. A few days ago, a group of Pre-K students found this lovely creature creeping along in the mulch by the stage. 092314_5565

We spent some time trying to name its distinguishing characteristics.  Then, we leafed through Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America and found a possible match.

 

092314_5562Our best guess was that it was a Luna Moth larva.  The children scooped up some surrounding vegetation and lovingly placed it in a clear creature box.  Just to make sure we had the right environment for our caterpillar, we added leaves known to be a favorite for this squishy, green larva.

The next morning the children were excited to check on their newest friend.  This is what they found:

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There was some initial disappointment that our caterpillar was no longer active in its temporary habitat.  However, once we discussed the monumental metamorphosis going inside this bland little leaf ball, the children forgave the wee bug.

We have decided that the cocoon must be returned to its natural habitat as soon as possible.  We read that the Luna Moth pupa must stay in its cocoon all winter long.  We are pretty sure our classroom will not reach the required winter temperatures.  Although we are sad that we will not get to see the beautiful moth emerge in the spring, we  are pleased to have witnessed this small bit of magic along the way.

See the Painted Lady

With Spring upon us, our room has become a place of birth and transformation.  Along with our bird study, we are also interested in other creatures that come from eggs.  One of our students donated a butterfly habitat complete with five Painted Lady caterpillars.  They arrived yesterday evening, and have been a big part of play this morning.

We had them sitting on the art table so that children could observe them in small groups.  The first group of children that noticed them fell instantly in love.  They had many questions.

  • “Why do they look so poisonous?”
  • “Can we pet them?”
  • “Can I go get them some leaves so they have something to eat?”
  • “Will they be butterflies today?”
  • “Why aren’t they moving?”
  • “Do butterflies look the same as they d0 when they were caterpillars?”

After some discussion, we realized that a few of the children thought they might be poisonous because of the hairs that stand up along their bodies.  We assured them that we would never allow a poisonous creature to live in our classroom.  The children thought it was quite ridiculous that the caterpillar was simply hairy.  Through a round of giggles, they decided that the butterflies would be hilariously covered with hair, as well.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens with that hypothesis.

 

What did you do in Pre-K?

This has been a very busy week.  It always seems, as we draw closer to the end of the year, that the number and variety of projects we still wish to accomplish becomes insurmountable.  Maybe you’ll let me keep them all for another year? Yes? Hmmm…I guess not.  In that case, I’ll just fill you in on what’s been happening this week.

Our play garden has finally developed enough to add the mushrooms and some small friends for playing.  My plan to use the path for a game board has been a bit challenged by the grass growth, though.  On Monday, the children used scissors to help me give it a trim and I’ve been trying to keep up with weeding between the rocks, but it is still jungle-esque.

Our basil plants have grown much in the last few weeks.  I think I will send them home with the children on Monday.  Care and feeding should be quite easy.  Simply fill the bottom of the 2-liter bottle half-way with water and set the upturned top inside the bottom.  This step makes it self-watering.  Place it in a sunny spot indoors or out and you’ll have yummy basil all summer.

Another activity that involves up-cycled materials used most of the water bottle caps we’ve been collecting all year.  At first, I had planned for us to make some sort of outdoor musical instrument or chime.  The sound of the many caps clinking together is rather pleasant.  However, as I began on a test version, I realized how much a string of them resembled a caterpillar.  What luck since we’re preparing for our annual Very Hungry Caterpillar play.

Each child took turns using a hammer and a short, sharp nail to pre-poke holes into all of the lids.  We practiced one at a time during a Morning Meeting so that I could be sure that each child understood the procedures and safety issues that needed to be in place.  We also placed the cap on a clipboard prior to hammering so that we wouldn’t damage the tables.

For many of the children, this was the first time they had been allowed to use a hammer.  I was very impressed with the earnestness with which they approached the task.  Not once all week was there a wild or dangerous moment.  They took this job quite seriously.

The next step was new for many as well.  They had to thread a large, plastic needle with twine and “sew” twenty of the caps together.  All of the children have had many experiences with beads, but the change in mode of string delivery caused a bit of confusion.  At least two students muddled through poking the twine through the holes of a couple of caps without the needle only to find that the needle was still attached near the knot at the end.  Once we figured out how to hold the needle and both ends of string together in a pincer grasp, it became much easier.  It was also a great opportunity for me to informally assess their ability to consistently count objects to twenty.

The rest of the week involved a plethora of preparation for our play  [isn’t that a mouthful].  I think I’ll just allow you to wonder what those projects might have been, though.  We’ll see all of you next Friday at 10:45 for our play and you can see for yourself.  Remember, if it is a dry day, we will be performing outside on the playground on the stage.  If it is raining, you can safely assume that we’ll be in the multipurpose room.  Our family picnic will follow directly with the location to be set by the weather.  So far, families have signed up to bring fruit, juice, and cookies.  If anyone wants to add pretzels or other crunchy treat or any other dishes, please let me know.  I ordered the sandwich rings this morning, so I’m salivating already.