Saturday, 8 April 2017

the butterfly whisperers....

Every year around this time, I order my butterflies.

The butterflies arrive as tiny caterpillars with jars in which to put a little food (which comes in the package) and one caterpillar. These jars will be their homes until they go into chrysalises. Then they will be transferred to the butterfly box where we will wait for them to emerge fully-winged. We watch them in there for about a week, and then release them outside. (We get Painted Lady butterflies. They are native to this part of the world and many, many others. Monarchs do not like our northern climate, and we are not on their migratory flight paths.)

I could tell you lots more about how to raise the butterflies, but it's all in the package when you order them. I usually order mine from Boreal Science in Canada, but google "butterfly kit" and do your own search. There are lots of people who sell them these days. Similarly, there are LOTS of good materials on Teachers Pay Teachers -- just search "Painted Lady Butterflies." My favourite thing is called "My Painted Lady Observation Journal" by Smart Chick Teaching Resources. It's simple to use and flexible. In Grade One in Alberta, Canada we are not required to teach life cycles, but of course you can't not do it, when these little miracles are happening in your room each day. The real emphasis, though, is on watching living creatures grow, and on finding out that even butterflies need food, shelter, water, space, etc.

[There are scads of books -- fiction and non-fiction to support this learning and extend it into the Language Arts. I often use this moment in the school year, to review and teach the kids to read the days of the week, using The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This ties into calendar work in Math, as well as some simple measurement activities. And there are more art activities than you will ever be able to do in one school year! But here is my favourite.]

Raising butterflies never gets old. I have had so many, "Drop whatever you're doing and come watch this" moments with our butterflies -- watching them go into chrysalis, and especially watching them emerge as butterflies! It is so exciting; the kids are all "in." It's one of the best things I teach all year.

The butterflies actually get used to the kids, so that by the time we release them outside, they are in no hurry to fly away. I tell the kids that they have to stay still as we unzip the butterfly pavilion and let them go. But often the butterflies will land right on the kids. By this time, the kids have become little butterfly whisperers....

I know there is more to teaching than making memories, but I don't know anything that is better!

These two butterflies went straight for the fake flowers on one of
the girls' sandals!

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