Every spring, the children of UCDC have the amazing opportunity to watch the life cycle of a butterfly right in their own classroom. This is something the children look forward to every year. Although this year is different, Preschool Two simply could not miss the opportunity to witness this beautiful life cycle. Teachers got to work imagining how this could happen, and a virtual learning event was planned.

The children had the chance to watch five caterpillars grow and develop over the course of a few weeks, through our Seesaw app. Daily videos were posted, showing and explaining the insects growing and changing. Children were given the opportunity to journal what they witnessed with a journal page shared through Seesaw, or on their own with their own supplies and imaginations.

Although we could not be together in the classroom to read stories, teachers read and shared story times online. Children were able to listen to many books related to the process, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Impatient Caterpillar. These books helped us understand the job of the caterpillar is to eat and grow, then build a chrysalis. We learned that caterpillars stay inside their chrysalis for up to two weeks! This requires a lot of patience! But, we remained patient, and as we waited we continued to watch our daily videos and learn.

We learned that, as they grow, caterpillars molt (shed their skin) up to five times! We even got to see this process in our videos! We also learned that all insects, including butterflies, have three body parts – a head, thorax, and abdomen, as well as two antennae and six legs. To remember this, we learned a song and dance called “Head, Thorax, Abdomen,” sung to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”
Teachers also shared virtual activities with children like, a tutorial on how to draw a butterfly, and how to make racing caterpillars using only paper and a straw! Our caterpillars even joined us for Zoom meetings with the class!

After we watched all of the caterpillars hatch from their chrysalides, dry the meconium (red liquid) from their wings, and start to move around, we learned what butterflies like to eat. In the wild, butterflies eat the nectar from flowers, but we also learned they like to eat sweet fruit and sugar water since they resemble the sweet flavor of nectar. Children watched videos of our painted lady butterflies eating orange slices and sweet sugar water.

Once everyone’s wings were dry and bellies were fed, they were ready to be released into the wild. Although we couldn’t be together on the playground for the big release, the children still had the opportunity to watch it happen, and can even watch it over and over if they’d like! The whole thing was recorded and shared via Seesaw. We were also able to talk about it during our next Zoom classroom meeting. As an extension activity, everyone was encouraged to write and/or illustrate a story about our butterflies, and to look for butterflies in their own experiences outside.

Although this year was different, it was such a joy to still be able to share this experience together. Science and nature are an important part of the preschool classroom. It encourages curiosity and helps children begin to make sense of the world around them. It provides opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem solving. Experiencing the life cycle of a butterfly allows children to become scientists! We can’t wait to do it all again next year!