Monday, May 16, 2011

Bye, Bye Butterflies

It started when five tiny caterpillars, less than a half inch in length, took up residence in Ms. Haney's first grade classroom. Even though the classroom's volunteer, Ms. Flaherty, explained that these little guys were going to turn into Painted Lady butterflies, it seemed almost impossible. Yet, every time the kids peeked into their cage, the caterpillars were eating. And growing. And eating some more.

Then one day they inched their way upwards. They attached themselves to the paper top. Soon the caterpillars’ skin split open, revealing a shiny green case underneath—the chrysalis. This would protect them as they changed into butterflies. See them up there!

If kids staring at them would have helped, those Painted Ladies would have hatched in less then a day. But nature has its own timetable, so the caterpillars needed seven to ten days to hatch into butterflies. While the kids waited, they read books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Suddenly a chrysalis began to vibrate! And then another! And another! The kids got so excited, they began to vibrate themselves. Then the first butterfly broke free. Its wings were soft and crumpled. It was tried from all that hard work but slowly unfolded its wings to dry.

Soon the first butterfly had four companions. Ms. Flaherty dipped some carnations in sugar water so the butterflies could have something to eat.

The kids knew they were going to have to let the butterflies go free. Sometimes it's hard to let go of something or someone important. So all the kids wrote goodbye letters to the Painted Ladies.

Last Thursday was the Big Day. The kids gathered in a circle in the schoolyard's Science Garden. They each took turns saying goodbye. Some of the kids read their letters. Others said, "I'll miss you!" Or, "Have a nice trip!"

Then Ms. Flaherty opened the cage and the first butterfly crawled onto her finger. All the kids hoped a butterfly would come to them and sometimes it did!

And then they were off. "Goodbye butterfly." "Have a nice trip!"

This is already a long post. So we'll publish some of the kids' butterfly letters another time soon.