Those who can, teach: Tracking the Painted Lady life cycle with pasta

Hey there, today marks another installment of my handy how-to’s for educators.

This particular activity is awesome when paired with observing Painted Lady butterflies grow and change in your classroom.  It’s a visually appealing model that represents a unique hands-on opportunity to record the stages in the life cycle of organisms in their natural environment — using inexpensive materials and items gathered from outdoors.

caterpillar

Photo by squeakychu

What You’ll Need:

From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman (very basic)
The Lifecycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards (more detailed)
Light blue construction paper cut into 3 x 18-inch (8 x 35-cm) strips – one strip per child
Rotini pasta – one piece per child
Bowtie pasta – one piece per child
Mini shell pasta – one piece per child
Orzo pasta (rice also works well) – one piece per child
Small twigs or brown craft stems cut into 3-inch strips – three per child
Fresh leaves or leaves cut from construction paper– two per child
Wildflower or flower sticker – one per child
Washable markers
Liquid water color paint in green and another color of your choice
Scissors
School glue

Kat-Caterpillar to Butterfly

What You Do:

1.    Cut construction paper into strips; one per child.
2.    Color rotini pasta and mini-shell pasta green by placing pasta in a baggie with green liquid water color and shaking gently.  Spread out and allow the pasta to dry.
3.    Color bowtie pasta a bright color of your choice in the same manner.

Next:

1.    Read:  From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman aloud to the class. This story is about a Painted Lady Butterfly raised in a classroom. Painted Lady Butterfly Kits are available in the Houston Museum of Natural Science Museum Store (use your educator’s discount!).  Live specimens will ship to you after you mail in the card contained in the kit — allow time for this.
2.    Take your class on a short field trip in the green areas on school grounds.
3.    Each child will collect three small sticks and two fresh leaves.  (Keep in mind that it is a good idea to check with school administrators to verify that collecting on school grounds is permissible.)
4.    Each child will fold a strip of light blue construction paper into four equal sections, creasing well.
5.    In the first section, a stick and a leaf are glued into the square, as if it were a leaf hanging from the stick.  Glue a single piece of orzo atop the leaf.  What does the orzo represent?
6.    Glue a stick and leaf in a similar way in the second square. Glue a piece of green rotini pasta to the top of the leaf.  What does this represent?
7.    In the third square, a stick should be glued with one mini-shell pasta hanging straight from the middle.  What does this represent?
8.    In the last square, a flower or flower sticker will be glued, along with the colorful piece of bowtie pasta.  What does the bowtie pasta represent?  Why do we have the flower in this square?
9.    Label each section as follows:  EGG, CATERPILLAR, CHRYSALIS, and BUTTERFLY.  They must be labeled in this order.
10.    Have children practice presenting the butterfly life cycle to one another using the project that was created.

Cockrell Butterfly Center

Questions to expand those  kiddie minds:

Why did you glue the “egg” and the “caterpillar” to the leaves?
Why did you glue the “chrysalis” to the stick?
Why was there a flower with our butterfly?
How many stages are there in the butterfly’s life cycle?
How is your life cycle similar to the life cycle of a butterfly?  How is it different?
Name other life cycles you observe around you.

Enjoy!

Science Labs and Outreach Programs

It is the end of the school year for us and it has been a very busy April and May. Chris and I finished our last science lab classes in April and now we are doing nonstop outreach programs!

In Chris’ Biology Lab, she taught Fungus Among Us, where 5th-8th graders learn about molds, mushrooms & yeast with hands-on activities.  They learned about different types of fungi, dissected a mushroom, and experimented with yeast.

Carbon Dioxide releasing from yeast

Yeast Balloon Experiment

Chris says that no matter how hopeful you are or how much sugar you add, the balloon wouldn’t levitate the bottle or spontaneously blow off.

In my Wildlife Lab, I taught Bugs in Balance.  The K-8th graders learned what “ingredients” make an insect, and their life cycles, and then got a chance to meet live insects up close and personal. 

We started out by learning that bugs mean different things for different people–usually, the term “bug” refers to small, creepy, crawlies like insects, spiders, millipedes, & scorpions.  Many people aren’t aware that there is an order of insects called Hemiptera, known as the “true bugs.” 

After talking about the true bugs, we focused on insects in general.  We came up with a recipe for creating an insect that included the following ingredients: 6 legs, 3 body parts, 2 antennae, an exoskeleton, and wings optional!  We examined the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach as an example of a wingless insect.  They also met up with a Giant Malaysian Katydid, a beautiful green relative of crickets and grasshoppers.

Katydid (Orthoptera Tettigoniidae 5x7) _emailable 7825
Creative Commons License photo credit: fireflies604

We looked at the life cycle of the butterfly and compared it to that of the cricket.  Butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis that includes 4 stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  The cricket only has three stages called incomplete metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult.

To learn about the balance of insects in our environment, we talked about how they can be both helpful and harmul to humans.  The younger classes created a beehive mobile to remind us of how important honey bees are as pollinators in our society and about Colony Collapse Disorder.  The older classes built a mosquito out of pipettes, pipe cleaners, & bobby pins as we talked about how this insect can be a carrier of diseases such as Malaria and West Nile Virus.

It’s time to take a break from our classes as we close out the school year with 3-5 outreach programs a week.  This keeps us very busy!  We must prepare ahead of time to ensure we have all of the proper specimens (e.g. stuffed bobcat, echidna, shark jaws) and that the live animals are ready to go.  We must arrive early to load up our van and attempt traffic to get to the school on time.  Once we arrive, we set up our specimens on the table and mentally prepare which animals will we show in which order.  We normally take 6-8 live animals and do 25-45 minute presentations.  We see thousands of elementary students a year and answer quite the assortment of questions including “Is it real?” and “Where’s its head?”

Wildlife on Wheels

Chris displaying a rabbit for our Texas Wildlife program

As you can see, our animals keep very busy as educational ambassadors which in turn keeps us very busy caring for them.  I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into our lives here at the Museum.  We look forward to sharing with you our upcoming Creature Feature: The Mysterious Matamata.