Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillars Crawl Again

     Lately, many kids at school have spent the majority of their time on the playground searching for caterpillars. Because some 3-5 year olds aren’t as gentle as others, we began to enforce a look but don’t touch rule. Each time someone spotted one crawling along, he or she shouted to everyone to come and see. One teacher began saving the caterpillars the children found by moving them on a paddle, piece of mulch, or a stick to a tree outside of the sandbox and just slightly above the reach of curious little hands.
     Sparked by the kids’ curiosity and my newfound fascination with the process of a tiny caterpillar hatching from a little egg and in a matter of weeks going through several stages of transformation that lead to a magnificent butterfly, I went to the library and checked out some books on the life cycles of butterflies.
     I brought one of the books to school that has a easy caterpillar comparison page, so we could try to identify the type of caterpillar crawling all over the play area. At circle time one day, I explained the life cycle of a butterfly to the kids and showed them the wonderful photos included of each stage leading up to the emergence of the butterfly. By the end of story time, the kids and I had narrowed our guesses about what is probably populating our playground down to three different types of potential butterflies.
     I was thoroughly impressed when a four year old came up and showed me the drawings he had done of a butterfly’s life cycle. Interestingly enough, the only thing missing was a picture of the caterpillar crawling on a tree, the very part of the life cycle he and others sought out each afternoon. I mentioned this, and he quickly went and drew one, then we spread the drawings out, and he put them in order with an extra page on the front and back so I could staple it for him, which in his mind is all it takes to make it into a book. I was so excited that he actually got it that I started showing other teachers and students the book he’d done.
     One of the great things about working with children is that they get really excited about the things adults so often overlook. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time examining caterpillars as I have recently, simply because they are so fascinating to the kids at school. The patterns on some of them are really intricate and beautiful. They’re very agile, acrobatic even.
     I’ve often been able to see God in the splendor of nature, but it’s usually a sunset, a flower, a tree, or a butterfly that makes me smile in awe and His creation. I’m grateful that the enthusiasm of little ones has brought me to an appreciation of the magnificence of nature in all its stages. Children have again proved to be very good little spiritual directors for me.  (Originally posted May 2, 2009 on my former blog).
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