By Jeanie Scott
Special to the Light
Students in Theron Royer and Kerry Starzyk’s prekindergarten class at The Gillispie School were out exploring the early childhood campus one morning and discovered about 20 caterpillars in a milkweed planter.
Day after day, the children were fascinated by the amount of milkweed being consumed by the caterpillars. They protected and counted them as they grew bigger. A few days later the now two- inch caterpillars began travelling throughout the playground and attaching themselves to fences, bookshelves and, even underneath a lunch table.
The children declared the caterpillar under the lunch table as their new class pet and erected a handmade barricade of yellow tape and cones to provide protection. The students checked on their new pet at about 1 p.m. one afternoon and went into their classroom for a short rest period. About 30 minutes later, the students checked in again and, much to their surprise, the caterpillar had transformed into a chrysalis.
These 4- and 5-year-olds studied the butterfly lifecycle and knew that in about two to three weeks that the chrysalises scattered throughout the campus would become beautiful butterflies.
Teacher Theron Royer said that “the children’s discovery of caterpillars in the garden had turned into a very rich topic that was worth pursuing.”
She noted that they learned about the life cycle of science, used their math skills to count caterpillars and the days until the chrysalises hatched and their language arts skills in writing of signs.”
On top of that, she added, “We also saw the social benefits of teamwork and empathy for protecting a living creature. Finally, it was empowering for the children to realize that their ideas are important and that their actions are meaningful and can save a life.”