|Inspecting our hungry caterpillar|
I gathered our little caterpillar friend and placed him in a clear jar and poked holes through the top for ventilation. I called Lachlan over to show him what was inside and he was so excited! He began giggling and pointing at the caterpillar and watched in fascination as it slinked its way around the jar. "He's just like The Very Hungry Caterpillar," I said. "Look at this tomato he ate through!" I showed Lachlan the tomato and he smiled with amazement. "Should we give him something more to eat?" Lachlan shook his head yes and his daddy suggested we put a large tomato leaf in the jar so the caterpillar could finish his breakfast. The caterpillar didn't waste anytime. Right away we crawled on the leaf and began nibbling away. Before we knew it he was eating so much that the bottom of the jar was filled with little caterpillar poos. I never knew a caterpillar could poo so much! This of course was of great fascination to Lachlan as well.
Lachlan took a nap and after he woke up he was surprised to see that the caterpillar had already finished half of the huge tomato leaf and was still eating. Lachlan sat and ate his lunch and insisted that the caterpillar sit at the table with him. He ate and watched the caterpillar eat. He also have the jar a little shake to see what would happen. The caterpillar clung to the leaf for dear life, survived the mighty toddler earthquake and resumed back to his eating rituals. I took out Lachlan's The Very Hungry Caterpillar book so he could look at it. He took the book over the the jar and began smiling and pointing at the caterpillar in the book and pointing to the one in the jar. I reminded him that the caterpillar is eating a lot so it can make a cocoon and turn into butterfly; this made him very happy and excited as he understood the possibility.
Each day we monitored our caterpillar and feed him well. On Tuesday we tried to switch up his food to add some variety and I put a lettuce and mint leaf in the jar. The caterpillar refused to eat all morning and searched the bottom of the jar. That evening we put another tomato leaf in the jar and he was happy again- eating and pooping as usual. Wednesday morning Lachlan insisted that we take the caterpillar with us where ever we went. He had gotten very attached. I told him that I'm sure his friends at our play sessions would love to see it so we'll bring it along. I also took The Very Hungry Caterpillar book to share with the class. Lachlan was very proud. Anytime someone walked over to the table to look at the jar he ran over and pointed inside to show them the caterpillar. All the toddlers were fascinated and enjoyed it when I shared the book with them. Lachlan helped in the reading by making smacking noises with his lips and wiggling his toy caterpillar along the pages and into the holes of the fruit. We talked about the caterpillar and how we hoped that it would also make a cocoon just like the one in the story.
|Finding the same cocoon in The Very Hungry Caterpillar|
The following week came and we continued to monitor our little hungry friend. Monday of that week he began to look very unwell' just like Eric Carle's caterpillar in the story. For two days he ate nothing, not even a fresh tomato leaf. He laid on the bottom of the jar and we had to wonder if he was going to make it or not. I thought we might be dead. Wednesday morning however we woke up to a lovely surprise. On the bottom of our jar was a cocoon! Over night the caterpillar had begun making his little house and by morning he was completely wrapped up. I couldn't wait for Lachlan to see. I only hoped he would understand what has happened and not be sad to see the caterpillar gone. When Lachlan looked in the jar he was astonished. "Look! Our caterpillar made a house around him. A cocoon!" I exclaimed. Right away Lachlan understood. He clapped and laughed. He trotted his little feet over to get his caterpillar book and turned it to the page with the cocoon and began pointing to both of them. Again he sat and ate his breakfast with his little cocoon next to him.
|Pupa, Day 1|
That morning we went to our play session again and shared our cocoon with our friends. The children were delighted to see the cocoon and the parents enjoyed the opportunity to talk to their children about what had happened to the caterpillar. When we got home set up Lachlan's table with a magnified glass and some books with butterflies, caterpillars and cocoons in them. I told him that the caterpillar inside the cocoon is now called a pupa; over his head I'm sure but we should never underestimate a children's ability to take in information. Lachlan was free to go to the table and explore the items. He enjoyed looking through the books and at all the different types of cocoons. I talked to him about how I was imagining what our caterpillar might look like once he emerges from the cocoon and becomes a butterfly.
A week went by and we patiently watched the cocoon. If Lachlan gave the jar a little shape, the tail end of the cocoon would react and wriggle. Two weeks approached and it was time for us to prepare for Christmas. We always go out of town and we intended to bring the jar with us so we couldn't miss the butterfly make its grand entrance into the world. Among all the hustle and bustle, we forgot. When we got to the beach house we wondered what would happen to our little friend- would we arrive home with a beautiful butterfly sitting on the twig or would it be dead or would we get lucky and it still be in a pupa state?
Well, I wish I had a beautiful happy ending for the story but I don't. We arrived home and I went to the kitchen to look in the jar. I was very happy to see that the cocoon had busted open; but where was the butterfly? I looked all around the jar and saw nothing. I inspected the cocoon again and it looked like possible there might have been a little bit of something inside but I couldn't tell because it was all dried up. A sad ending to such a hopeful story for a toddler. I didn't bother to show Lachlan. He don't think he'd understand what happened and he'd only wonder where the butterfly was and probably get frustrated. Thankfully since we'd been gone for awhile on holiday he forgot all about his cocoon and hasn't asked for it so that is where we are leaving it. Perhaps we'll find another caterpillar this summer and try again or next year will come around and Lachlan will be a bit more mature to try the experiment on his own and contemplate the results whatever they may be. It was a fun science experience for him though and it was wonderful for him to be able to make the connection from his book to the real world of mother nature. The joys of learning! Hopefully better luck for us next time...