I have been privileged to spend time with young children throughout my adult life: my own, children I have taught, and now my grandchildren. Spending time with young children is one of the best ways of maintaining a sense of wonder and awe in the everyday. Opportunities abound, if one is willing to see the world afresh through their eyes,
- the softness of petals in a newly opened flower
- the collection of pollen on a bee’s legs as it rests within the flower
- the snail’s silver trail on the pavement
- where the puddle goes after the rain
- how the toothpaste gets into the tube
- how aeroplanes stay in the air
- why the sky is blue
- where clouds come from
- why tigers have stripes and kangaroos hop
- what came first: the chicken or the egg
One of my favourite ways of bringing the wonders of nature into the classroom is through observations of a live butterfly kit. We would watch the tiny caterpillars hatch, eat voraciously as they grew larger and larger, and then pupate before emerging triumphantly as beautiful butterflies.
There are many opportunities to notice, to question and to wonder:
- What will happen if the caterpillars eat all the leaves?
- How big will the caterpillars grow?
- How long will it take for the caterpillar to change into a butterfly?
- How does the caterpillar breathe?
- Does the caterpillar know it is going to be a butterfly?
- Does the butterfly remember being a caterpillar?
- What happens to the caterpillar in the chrysalis?
- Why do they poo so much?
We got to know that when a caterpillar was ready to pupate, it made a ‘j’ shape, hanging from under a leaf or branch, or from the top of the butterfly house. It would stay that way for a number of hours. Children (and teacher) would sneak over from time to time to see if anything was happening.
As soon as the caterpillar started wriggling, we would quietly rush over to watch as it shed its last skin to become a pupa. It is an amazing spectacle, one that is not often seen “in the wild”. In fact it is a very quick process, and unless someone just happened to be watching at the time, we would miss it. Although we didn’t see every caterpillar pupate, we saw enough to appreciate and wonder.
Equally as exciting was watching a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis. As the time was approaching the chrysalis would become transparent and we could see the shape and colour of the butterfly’s wings through the chrysalis. Watching the butterfly push open the chrysalis and emerge with crumpled wings was amazing. Oftentimes the butterflies would emerge in the mornings before the children arrived. But sometimes they waited, and we all watched as the butterflies pumped up their wings and spread them to dry in readiness for flying.
When the butterflies’ wings were dry and they were almost ready to fly we would remove them from the house. If we timed it just right, we could hold them on our fingers, transferring carefully from fingertip to fingertip without touching the wings. When they were ready to fly, we would go outside and release them. The children loved to look for the butterflies at lunch time and learned that observation was the best way to appreciate them.
The children’s interest and excitement was shared with anyone who visited the classroom: administrators, other teachers and children, siblings and parents. I tend to think that the children’s sense of wonder may have ignited a spark in others too.
This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a breathless moment. Write about life.
Watching the short stages of a butterfly’s life is a good way to get children thinking about life, its beauty and its frailty, its dangers and its strength. Watching the transformations that take place can certainly take one’s breath away. It is this that has inspired my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.
I heard the scurry of footsteps. Then he was in the doorway; eyes ablaze, breathless.
“Come … quick … Miss,” he said, punctuating each word with puffs and pants.
Before I had moved, there were others behind him, imploring me to come.
With quickened pace I followed, hoping that I, that all, would be in time.
Others were there already, clustered around. I peered over their heads, expectantly, holding my breath in a vain attempt to make time stand still.
“Ahh!” we breathed in unison and awe as we watched the butterfly emerge from its now transparent shell.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.