“Look, that is my friend Wiggly!” said Sania, a grade three student of mine as we stroll in the school garden. Wiggly was a butterfly that had spent its first three weeks with Sania and had become a close friend of hers. I share Sania’s journey with the butterfly through this article.
Experiment: Grow a butterfly in your class!
Objective: To observe the different stages of a butterfly.
Time taken: One period each week for four weeks
Materials needed: butterfly eggs, small transparent plastic cups with perforated covers, a glass container like that seen in an aquarium to build a habitat for butterflies, magnifying glasses, a ruler, threads, science notebook.
Stage 1 – The egg: Students of grade three were divided in groups of two. We put the butterfly eggs at the bottom of plastic cups with perforated covers. The cups with the eggs were passed around the class. Students observed the egg in great detail using a magnifying glass. They drew a picture of it in their books. And as a teacher, it was easy to initiate a discussion on the stages of a butterfly’s life. We also talked about what a butterfly eats – fennel, parsley, milkweed, common rue, mulberry leaves, etc. We walked around in the school garden and collected a lot of mulberry leaves during the school break that day.
Stage 2 – The larva: It usually takes three to four days for the larvae to emerge. And this is when the excitement of students began rising. They saw a live creature crawling for the first time since the experiment started. Students used their magnifying glasses again to observe how a caterpillar looks. They could see the spiracles, prolegs, legs, antennae and small hair on the caterpillar’s body. They drew a picture of that in their science notebooks. We then discussed the importance of each part of the body of the caterpillar.
The caterpillar or a larva eats a lot and grows really fast. Students measured the length of the caterpillar using a thread and measured the length of the thread with a ruler. Students kept track of the growth of the caterpillar every three days until it turned into a pupa. The caterpillar grows by ‘molting’, i.e., shedding its outer skin. The students observed this phenomenon and noted this in their science notebooks. They loved watching the caterpillar eat, eat, eat, shed its skin and grow! During this stage, we also read the book, ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ by Eric Carle.
The author is a children’s book writer, storyteller and an educational consultant based in Amsterdam. She can be reached at [email protected].