We have live caterpillars in my classroom. After some miscommunication, and a couple of friendly emails to clarify things, they finally arrived last week. I was worried that they would not survive the long weekend, but they are doing just fine. Like the students, I was amazed to return yesterday and see how much they have grown in the few days that we were away.
As they prepare to make their chrysalises, I am eagerly observing the process along with my students. Of course I know what will happen, this is the third time I have had caterpillars in the classroom. I have provided my students with a variety of nonfiction texts on caterpillars and butterflies. We have contrasted the information in the infamous The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, with the information we learned from the nonfiction books. The students were surprised to learn that the caterpillars don't actually eat fruits, lollipops and sausages as described in the Eric Carle story. Students who would not normally be drawn to the book area, are there, looking at the nonfiction books we have and comparing the images to the current appearances of our caterpillars. Some students drew pictures of the life cycle and others drew predictions of what they thought the butterflies would look like when they finally emerge.
Live creatures in the classroom is very exciting and learning all about them excites and energizes the children. There is one lesson that I couldn't have planned but that is happening. It seems that many of the children expected the caterpillars to move through their entire life cycle in less than a day. For those of you who may not know, once they arrive in the classroom, it takes about 5-7 days for the caterpillars to form chrysalises and then an additional 7-10 days for the butterflies to emerge. That is a long time for three, four and five year old students. So many of them are used to immediate gratification, of things happening RIGHT NOW. Waiting is challenging for them.
On the first day we had them one student asked me at breakfast if we had butterflies yet. He asked again at recess, lunch, small group and closing circle. He and his classmates have been observing the caterpillars carefully and looking for signs of change. We have been discussing how change takes time and how they did not get all of their skills in one day. So aside from their excitement and my carefully planned learning experiences, the best lesson is the incidental one, the one I didn't plan for. That good things take time, and that sometimes, we have to wait for things to happen.