Thursday, May 15, 2014

Life Cycles Galore

We have officially welcomed spring with full embrace; immersing the classroom in all things related to the life cycle: frogs, butterflies, and chicks! After venturing out to “our” vernal pool several times, we were able to collect eggs and added them to our classroom tank. Kindergarteners have been documenting the developmental changes they observe in their “Tadpole Diaries” as the vernal pool eggs transitioned into small tadpoles and most recently into tadpoles with hind legs! The Ks &1st graders also worked together and transformed the block area wall into a vernal pool installation, replete with creatures found therein: turtles, snakes, dragonflies, frogs, and butterflies.

Our butterfly nursery has also been a huge success. We watched as all five hungry caterpillars ate and ate and ate, and then formed the stereotypical “J” that denotes the start of pupation. Soon our patience paid off, the five pupae transformed from dull, light drown chrysalises, into darkened ones speckled with more intricate colors. Students made careful observational drawings documenting the entire Lepidoptera life cycle. In addition, students are now experts on how moths and butterflies differ anatomically and behaviorally, and what life cycle features they share. We explored the many ways that butterflies contribute to pollination and how essential butterflies are to the food web.

Last week the adults began to emerge and we were rewarded with five beautiful Painted Lady Butterflies. We placed strawberry treats inside the net enclosure as the newly eclosed adults unfurled their wings. Today was warm enough so we set them free. Placing them on some sweet flower nectar - a nearby lilac bush - students begin strategizing about the best plants to add to our schoolyard garden in order to attract the butterflies back.

In March, when our chick eggs and supplies were delivered, students could hardly contain their anticipation. As we waited, a mere ~20 days, we busied ourselves by learning all about the hidden transformation underway inside the eggshells. Students delved into the biology of chick development, eagerly candling the eggs on day 16, and dissected the yokers and quitters. Once the adorable chicks hatched, we were fortunate to have chicken expert and author, Terry Golson, visit our school.

Terry read from her children’s book, Tillie Lays an Egg, and answered all our questions about chick care! We were surprised to learn that the type of chicken we thought we had was in fact another breed all together. Students are continuing to make careful observations of the chicks in order to document their behavior and determine the ratio of hens to roosters.