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The Amazing Butterfly
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by, Eric Carle makes an excellent introduction to this fascinating life cycle. Gather the children together and share the book. Discuss with the children what happens to the egg, caterpillar, and pupa at each stage and, finally, how the butterfly emerges.
Invite the children to act their way through the book. First ask them to curl up really small like the egg and then wriggle along pretending to eat like the caterpillar. Next, stand very still with arms to their sides. Wrap scarves or blankets from the house center around the children and have them slowly emerge from them, spreading their arms as they become butterflies.
After the students are gathered together again explain to them that the egg went through those changes and became something quite different - the grownup word for that is metamorphosis. It means changing from one thing to something very different.
Ask the children how they think that the caterpillar feels as he eats and eats. Ask for a volunteer and invite the student to try on a smaller child's jacket or sweater. Explain that this is how the caterpillar's skin feels when it is in the feeding, growing stage. The caterpillar has to "burst" out of that small skin and there is a larger one underneath.
Make a large mural of the stages of the butterfly life cycle. Make it a circle picture so that the students realize that it is a repeating pattern called a cycle.
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Gather the children together and remind them about the hungry caterpillar and the life cycle of the butterfly. Review the word metamorphosis and ask them if they can think of any other creature that starts life as one thing and becomes something quite different.
Share the book "The Caterpillar and the Polliwog" by, Jack Kent. This is a story about a caterpillar, and her friend the polliwog, who both turn into something completely different at the end of the story. The caterpillar boasts about becoming a butterfly and becomes one, while the polliwog tries to become a butterfly too, but turns into a frog instead!
Discuss how the frog starts life as an egg, hatches into a tadpole (polliwog), grows legs and becomes a frog. Make another circular mural to show this metamorphosis.
Encourage the children to act out this life cycle. Begin by curling up small like a frog egg (called frog spawn), then wiggle around trailing a paper tail as a tadpole. Poke out legs and then arms and jump like a frog.
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Crafts and Activities
Now that we have covered some of the teaching involved, let us look at some more ideas for our free metamorphosis lessons for the preschoolers in your class- these have a crafty twist to them.
Grow a caterpillar. Cut out six circles from a J-cloth, or similar dish washing fabric. Place birdseed or grass seed in the center of each circle and gather together with a twist tie. On one of the balls make a face and add pipe cleaner antennae. Arrange the balls on a waterproof tray on top of a bed of damp cotton balls. Place on a sunny window ledge. Keep damp and, in about a week, the caterpillar should sprout.
Make paper butterflies. Fold large sheets of paper in half and then open them up. Ask the children to drop large blobs of paint along the fold line. Use several different colors. Refold the paper, press and smooth the paint away from the fold. Unfold the paper and allow time for drying. Cut them into butterfly shapes.
Make paper plate frog puppets. Provide paper plates. Invite students to color them green with markers, or crayons, or paint. Fold them in half and add four legs cut out of green construction paper and glue googly eyes, or draw eyes on the top. Children can use these as puppets and have them "sing" along to songs such as "Five Green and Speckled Frogs".
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Invite your students to use their new word, metamorphosis, in a sentence. Sing it, whisper it, shout it, and stamp it. If possible, bring the lesson to life by adding a butterfly hut or frog terrarium to the science center. Have fun.