Thursday, September 17, 2020

Insects: House Fly, Periodical Cicada, Ant Lion

I have lots of lovely pictures from our Monarch metamorphosis observations, which I am excited to share. We have four more chrysalises to go!

But this week in Kindergarten we looked at life cycles from other insects (just to make sure I wasn't accidentally giving my child the impression that monarch butterflies are the only thing that go through metamorphosis)!


  • read Animals Upside Down: A Pull, Pop, Lift & Learn Book! by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

  • talk about the house fly
  • look at the house fly life cycle (PDF - I printed page 2)
  • learn that all insects come from eggs; learn that all insects have six legs; count the legs on a newly-hatched monarch butterfly as well as an ant, house fly, and cricket which conveniently happened by


  • read Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson (this was in response to yesterday's question, "do butterflies have babies?" which, of course, goes to show that the whole life cycle idea is still pretty abstract)

  • review the house fly life cycle, the terms larva and pupa, and how adult insects don't look like the babies
  • read house fly fact in Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time by Steve Jenkins (this is on the page Very Quick)

  • try to get a sense of how long a second is (I would say "Go!" and he would wait the length of time that he thought was one second and then clap)... and house flies can take off even faster than that when they sense danger (the idea of 1/10 of a second is too abstract)
  • find house flies and then each time I would say "Show him some danger" and Zac would move his hand towards the fly and we would marvel at how quickly it took off! he loved doing this over and over


I had the life cycle pages printed in color on heavy paper and then put them in page protectors so that they would be protected from any dampness on the ground; this also means I can wipe them down as needed. So I think I'll do more things for the Outdoor Classroom this way. It's less expensive than lamination, and after a study of something I can remove the items, put them in a file folder, and put papers for the next topic into the same protectors.

And I am very seriously thinking of setting up an antlion habitat this weekend with Zac, to have in the Art Room for observations. I loved the University of Florida Extension publication Antlions in the Classroom (PDF).

UPDATE: An illustration of the adult antlion in on page 10 of 1000 Animals by Jessica Greenwell.

I am finding the Outdoor Classroom experience rich and inspiring because of all the things we see (like the five-lined skink with his bright blue tail) but I am also finding it tricky. In Early Childhood classrooms, Waldorf teachers do lots of stories that have Nature characters like Jack Frost. We do seasonal stories almost exclusively (along with a few fairy tales) when we teach indoors, because we want to help keep children connected to the natural world. We even have a Nature table in the corner where we keep displays of what is happening outside, and students can add their Nature treasures.

It's funny, right? Now we really ARE way more connected to the natural world, because school is outside, but now there's no time for the old well-loved stories. I feel like we need to do a Nature study, like birds, but then I also miss the little fictional things. And those are important too!

Usually I start the year with The Muddy Farmyard, from Nell Smyth's absolutely lovely book, and we make Chocolate Play Dough.

It's a wonderful story, and good for retelling many times, and we do musical instruments with it too like rainsticks and froggie drums. I can see who can keep following the story as I replace concrete items with more abstract ones, like putting in a glass pebble instead of a little frog. I can see if the children have tactile defensiveness with the dough. If they have patience and they are able to wait, or if they touch the playdough while it's still pretty hot. How strong their hands are when they knead it. How well they understand how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients. And without a kitchen, that kind of familar activity doesn't seem possible.

Plus, I feel like I have to set up a sensory experience or creative play provocation each day, since there aren't as many toys as there would be in a classroom setup. So I feel really fragmented between allowing lots of open outdoor play, preparing and following through with a directed play activity, doing a Circle Time and figuring out how long and complex to make it, having a Nature study topic that relates to what we have observed outside, and then still trying to have a beautiful seasonal story. I guess I will just keep finding my way through it slowly, seeing what works and what doesn't.

I have learned that having paperweights matters too! For windy moments!

Our simple Circle Time for right now is:

Zac has actually added a new line to "Rocks to Stones," because he wanted something about crystals. So now we do "Rocks to stones..." (hold your arms out in front of you in a huge circle, then make hands into fists), "stones to pebbles..." (touch the pads of your fingers together), "pebbles to crystals"... (wiggle your fingers in a sparkly way), "crystals to sand, soft silky sand, that glides through my hands" (pantomime letting sand slither through your fingertips and catching it in your other hand, then switching).

Our simple Blessing at Snack is:

    Earth who gives to us this food,
    Sun who makes it ripe and good,
    dear Earth, dear Sun, by you we live,
    all our thanks to you we give

Of course this week we also enjoyed:

sensory play with plastic containers and whole flaxseed

making tiny worlds (Worm World, Snail World, Bunny World, Dinosaur World, Digger World)

watching our newly-hatched monarchs fly away (9 so far: 3 on Friday, 3 on Monday, 3 on Tuesday)

collecting wild strawberries (should we add some to Worm World? what do worms eat? digging more worms)

freezing and unfreezing each other with magic spells

watching seeds with white fluff go by... trying to catch one... finding the plant in the yard with those special seeds... me being glad I didn't cut down all the weeds in the vegetable garden... joyfully shaking the plants and making it "snow"

adding extra spice packets from our Hello Fresh boxes to the tiny worlds

pumping water to make mud
pumping water to rinse out containers for recycling
pumping water because it's fun

finding a five-lined skink sunning himself on a rock

picking up the rock the skink hid under when we startled him, finding an ant colony underneath, noticing that some of the ants have wings!

playing with large riding toys outside, like the Caravan from Nova Natural

seeing different colors of butterflies in the yard (green, blue/brown, tiny blue, tiny orange, and the black & orange monarch)

seeing some of our monarchs fly past! what a joy!

drawing with sidewalk chalk (pumpkins, aliens, super-duper-duper-long snakes that run all along the sidewalk)

"what is the name of your snake?" "Longer"

discovering that sidewalk chalk also colors on stumps! coloring stumps

experimenting: does chalk draw on grass?

nature sketches of flowers

feeling the softness of lamb's ear

finding sassafras leaves in all three shapes (smooth, mitten, dinosaur track)

seeing that the leaves on the Burning Bush are starting to change color

noticing that the monarchs like our crepe myrtle and our honeysuckle (another reason I'm glad I didn't get rid of all of the weeds)

Adult Note: if children are making tiny worlds, it's a really good time to prune your bushes. The little pieces make wonderful trees in tiny worlds.

One More Thought: If you have older children and you want to do some Citizen Science around insects, consider participating in Ant Picnic.

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