In mid-April, as part of a class project, Kindergarten students at Tom Thomson Public School in Burlington received caterpillars in the baby pupa stage of life, barely noticeable to the eye. Contained in small plastic cups, the millimetre-sized eggs were ready to grow under the right conditions to transform into colourful butterflies. Thanks to the nurturing and ‘expertise’ of the school’s Kindergarten class, students released 18 butterflies during a sunny release ceremony on May 18.
The day was the culmination of weeks of preparation, study and journal writing as the class learned almost everything they could about butterflies. For example, Kiera says butterflies fly really fast and don’t sit still for long to avoid being caught by birds. Owen says butterflies need to dry their wings when they emerge from their cocoon to properly fly.
This is the knowledge gained during their butterfly project, which began in earnest in April, says Kindergarten teacher Angela DeBoers. She explains the butterfly project touched on many levels of learning including, reading, writing, science, math and art.
The students wrote and drew in their journals about butterflies. They learned how pupa turn into caterpillars and then butterflies by forming a cocoon called a chrysalis. Students would watch the cocoons, hanging from twigs, form in the cage where they were kept. They observed what they saw and wrote down their observations, much like a scientist would while engaged in an experiment, DeBoers says. Students wrote invitations for parents to attend the release ceremony and they even graphed the number of parents who were able to attend.
A butterfly chart is tacked to a wall in the Kindergarten room, describing different kinds of butterflies like the Painted Lady, Arctic Skipper and White Admiral. As well, a word wall was hung to display various words associated with butterflies like metamorphosis, chrysalis and camouflage.
“There no end to the way this butterfly project naturally ties into the motivation of kids and avenues for effective learning,” DeBoers says. “I think that speaks to the curriculum and developing what kids are interested in. When you want to learn, you do things longer with more intensity and focus. It’s tremendously powerful. It was lots of learning for us as adults.”
DeBoers says the class regularly cleaned out the cages to ensure the pupa-caterpillars-butterflies had the best environment to thrive. The class used a combination of orange Gatorade, and orange and watermelon slices to feed the butterflies.
DeBoers uses the butterflies as a metaphor for how they started out as one thing and grew into special even more special.
Vivian Nickerson, early childhood educator at Tom Thomson Public School, couldn’t have been more pleased with the project. The idea was borne from a Tom Thomson student who loved butterflies. Nickerson says the learning was widespread.
“One of the parents come in and say one day she heard her four year old used a very big word and was able to explain herself, and that word was 'metamorphosis',” she says. “It was a great learning process.”
Butterflies and Roses provided the school with the butterflies. It’s a member of the Canadian Butterfly Breeders and Exhibitors Association and the International Butterfly Breeders Association.