Homeschool, Nature, Outside, Science/Math

Eagerly awaiting very hungry caterpillars

Yesterday was the first day of spring. This year, I’m working hard to make sure we have lots of spring fun. Aside from our seed-related activities, I’ve ordered painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore. Choosing among ladybugs, butterflies and ants was tough, but butterflies definitely offer the most drama.

So, here’s the deal. Insect Lore is shipping us caterpillars in a cup with special food. The caterpillars should feed, molt and grow for about a week. (Did you know, caterpillars molt? As they grown they burst out of their skin, revealing the new skin underneath. Eric Carle never mentioned that one.) Then they should build a chrysalis and transform into butterflies within about a week.

Our kit includes a special butterfly-net habitat so we can feed and watch the butterflies for a couple of days before we release them into our backyard. I’ve already double-checked to make sure painted ladies will survive in our area. I know from research I’m doing for a book that some butterflies are very picky eaters. Monarchs stick to milkweed. Karner Blues love only lupine.

The boys are excited. One of their Nature’s Miracles books is called Once There Was a Caterpillar. We’ve read it over and over to learn about the caterpillar life cycle: eggs, caterpillar, pupa (in a chrysalis), butterfly. As I’ve noted before, I love this series because each book contains ideas for talking with your children about the subject. as well as activity suggestions, books to read and useful Web sites.

Do you have any spring activities on your agenda? How do you celebrate the arrival of sunshine, warmth and new life?

Homeschool, Nature, Outside, Science/Math

First Day of Spring Fun

March 20th marks the first day of spring this year. At our house, I’m hoping spring will mean the end of an intense winter storm with high winds and cold rain. Didn’t the Punxsutawney clan predict only six more weeks of winter?

Nevertheless, we are celebrating the beginning of spring at our house by engaging in a number of spring activities. As we drive and play outside, I encourage the boys to look for signs of spring: buds and blossoms on trees, ants scurrying about, birds singing their spring songs, bunnies hopping, warming weather. We’ve talked about spring weather and how it differs from winter. (NOTE: Click here for a Kindergarten spring weather lesson plan.) Finally, last week I took Cooper and Finley to Lowe’s where they each picked a packet of seeds and a pair of gardening gloves. We started our seeds in egg cartons since it’s still too cold to sow them outside. They are so excited about their plants, spritzing them with a spray bottle every day; I am crossing my fingers they germinate.

Many of our spring activities have been inspired by Scholastic’s Nature’s Miracles book series by Judith Anderson and Mike Gordon. The set includes four books — one each about seeds, caterpillars, tadpoles and raindrops. Each book explains a natural cycle; for example Once There Was a Seed  begins with a young girl and her grandfather planting a seed and follows that seed as it sprouts, blooms, produces pollen, and dies and spreads its seeds starting the cycle over again. The back of the book includes for reading the book with your child and suggestions for more spring activities, books for additional reading and helpful Web sites.

Hopefully warm spring weather has made it your way. Happy spring!