Another lesson in life, nature at S.P. Morton

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

A few months ago, a group of S.P. Morton Elementary School kindergartners returned to school one day to find a huge moth had emerged from the chrysalis in which it had been dormant for eight months.

Those same kindergarten students have been learning about life cycles and have now actually watched a Painted Lady butterfly emerge from its chrysalis with wet, crumpled wings.

The lesson in natural science started about two weeks earlier with tiny caterpillars that were thin and short. In one weekend, they grew to four times their original size. The students learned how the caterpillar eats and eats and gets bigger and fatter.

When it has eaten enough, the caterpillar attaches itself to a branch, in this case a white filter. It hangs upside down and forms what looks like the letter “J.” Then, almost like magic, it transforms into a chrysalis.

The students were able to observe closely how a chrysalis, made by a caterpillar, is thin like paper and eventually looks rather transparent. The cocoon they observed a few months ago, made by a moth, looked more like cotton and was much thicker.

They were excited each day as they came through the door to see if there were any changes. Finally the day arrived when they got to school and found two butterflies in the butterfly garden.

About an hour-and-a-half later, another began to emerge, and the students actually could watch the whole transformation.

Students in several kindergarten classes got to hold the butterfly and have their pictures taken with it on their faces. Even teachers posed with the butterfly.

Cherie Karmilovich had many of the photos printed and bound in a book for the students to enjoy. A fifth-grader, George Mitrovic, happened to see the book and talked about how he remembered when he was in kindergarten and how funny it felt to have a butterfly on his nose. That was five years ago and he still remembers it.

Kindergarten students also got to see ladybug larvae go through their complete metamorphosis and change into adult ladybugs.

It’s an experience they’ll always remember.