Every spring, classrooms throughout UCDC participate in the wonderful experience of observing five or six caterpillars make the transition from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. We are lucky to have the opportunity to witness such an enlightening process, through which the children learn so many valuable lessons. 

We began by observing the caterpillars crawling around and eating in their small habitat. We learned that they are living things and we must handle them with care. Drawing and discussing our observations day to day are typical activities for this time. This year we also read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and used modeling clay to sculpt our own caterpillars. As an extension of this activity, the children decided to reenact the story using their sculptures and then began creating their own stories. Some of them decided to take their caterpillars apart and make them into butterflies!

As the caterpillars begin to form their chrysalides, the children become more and more intrigued with the physical changes taking place. We talked about the fragility of the chrysalides and how they must not fall down from the top of the container because the butterfly inside could be damaged! Again, at this stage we discussed our observations and drew our findings. Many of the children were interested in writing out words related to our observations. Meanwhile, throughout the process, we were taking walks and playing on the playground, noticing all kinds of living creatures and plants, which we always found a way to relate back to our classroom butterflies!

Our experience concluded with six healthy butterflies emerging from their chrysalides, welcomed with GREAT excitement throughout the morning. Of course, they were all given names: Baby, ABC, Sia, Avery, Meconi (named for the red liquid that comes out of the chrysalis with the butterfly), and Sunbutter (lovingly named for one of our favorite snacks!). We talked to them and cut up slices of oranges and “smushy bananas.” which we learned they liked to eat through our extensive research on the classroom iPad. Frequent reminders of “be careful with our butterflies!” resonated loudly any time a new visitor entered the classroom.

Finally, we took them outside to release them and it was a huge event involving every child who happened to be on the playground at the time, as all butterfly releases are. We lovingly said goodbye to each one, going through all of the names we had chosen and watched as they fluttered up and away. When we came to the final butterfly, who was rather reluctant to flee the net, we noticed that there was a maimed butterfly from one of the other classrooms who was struggling under a tree with its under-developed wings. One of the preschoolers said, “Let’s put Sunbutter with this little guy to keep him company so he’s not scared.”

So many valuable lessons learned from such a wonderful experience!