After many years of school nursing in multiple grades, I have spent the last seven years as a preschool nurse. In all of my years of practice, the challenges and opportunities found in preschool nursing have been my most rewarding. I am able to identify needs that impact a student’s ability to learn and flourish early in their school experience.
Families are also especially engaged during the preschool years. It is truly a magical time for students and parents. I have counseled many parents who tearfully share how sad they are that preschool is ending as students transition to kindergarten.
This school year of 2019 – 2020 is not one that any of us could have ever predicted. The rhythm of the year was abruptly disrupted by the COVID19 pandemic. Our schools closed with little notice and the balance of the school year is in limbo as I write this blog post. And so, the magic of preschool has transitioned from high touch to hi-tech as we are now virtual.
As we were departing, one of the teachers was lamenting that her beloved Butterfly Lifecycle Experiment would be lost in the shuffle of moving to online learning. The experiment is one of the highlights of the school year, where children watch the life cycle of a caterpillar as it goes through the metamorphosis of becoming a butterfly. The culminating event is a butterfly release and it creates a sense of wonder and excitement for my youngest students. In the middle of a city, they can experience the thrill of releasing butterflies that they have watched grow through all of the stages of development. This is a beautiful metaphor for the preschool years, we release them to take flight into the world of kindergarten and beyond.
I suggested that Ms. Mimi, the preschool teacher, and her assistant, Ms. Wanda continue the butterfly experiment by documenting the events via photographs and videos. Ms. Mimi and Ms. Wanda did an amazing job sharing the project online with the students and families. I was so touched by the videos created that I invited Ms. Mimi to write a blog post to share the beauty of butterflies and preschoolers.
Ms. Wanda and I have enjoyed teaching preschoolers at Mi Casita Child Development Center in Camden, N.J. for the past fifteen years! The majority of our children are Hispanic and come from lower socio-economic households. Our bilingual classrooms are composed of fifteen children; three and four years of age, taught by a teacher and an assistant teacher. Our primary goal is to provide a nurturing and positive first school experience for our children. Throughout the years, we have found that science activities are especially positive for our urban population. We strive to bring the outdoors into the classroom with a variety of materials from nature such as rocks, shells, acorns, pinecones, magnets, Jumping Beans, sand and water tables, and plants. There are also opportunities for the children to take care of our class pet fish, Rainbow. Our favorite field trip continues to be to Johnson’s Farm. Taking the wagon ride through the fields of flowers and vegetable plants, picking apples off trees and pumpkins off vines, and feeding the farm animals is an excellent learning experience. The children and teachers enjoy this trip and get to discuss it for months!
Throughout the years, we have found the Insect Study to be an engaging and exciting learning experience! Children being naturally curious about the world around them are very interested in insects. The Butterfly Life Cycle experiment is to observe the metamorphosis from caterpillars to butterflies! We read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in Spanish and English, which is a very fun book! The children act out the stages from Egg to Butterfly. Each child takes the opportunity to curl up on the floor as the Butterfly Egg….then pop out into a Caterpillar, with antennae, crawling on the floor pretending to eat food on the ground. They then climb up a pretend tree (the teacher) eating through a leaf and spin a Cocoon, using toilet paper with the teacher’s help, holding still then squirming to get out. For the finale, the children pop out of the Cocoon as a Butterfly flapping their wings pretending to fly throughout the room. We have found that this movement activity builds an understanding of the incredible metamorphoses that do occur!
At the beginning of March, with Spring on its way, we decided to start our study on Insects. We ordered the Live Caterpillars and upon arrival, the children showed much interest! They counted the seven caterpillars and learned that their food was ground up on the bottom of the jar and that the small holes on top provided air. Each day, upon entering the classroom, the children would go directly to the Science Area. Often, they dressed as scientists in white lab coats and used magnifying glasses to observe the caterpillars. Some children drew pictures about their observations while some made caterpillars out of play dough.
In mid-March, our school was forced to close quickly due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Ms. Wanda and I were preparing Learning Packets to send home when Ms. Robin, our school nurse, stopped in our classroom. She noticed our jar of caterpillars and we expressed our disappointment that the children had only one week to observe them because the real excitement comes in the following three weeks when the caterpillars change into Butterflies. This is a wonderful experience because the children help to set them free outside. Ms. Robin suggested that we continue the activity online. We loved the idea! We developed a classroom facebook website for our children and their parents through which we could continue our class project.
I took our caterpillars home and was happy to send pictures and videos to our children and their families. As the caterpillars grew larger I sent this picture.*
Then the caterpillars crawled to the top of the jar and spun cocoons which became the next picture.*
It was wonderful to see the videos and pictures of the children drawing and creating 3D caterpillars at home with their families. We sent home an assignment of the Butterfly Life Cycle Sequence and the children drew pictures and composed books of the stages in the correct order. The children continued to act out the process from egg to butterfly. All the pictures and videos of these activities were imaginative and adorable!
WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES POPPED OUT OF THE COCOONS A VIDEO WAS SENT!!*
Soon after, the Butterflies were fed fruit slices and given water, which was shown in a second video.*
THE FINAL VIDEO OF THE BUTTERFLIES BEING RELEASED SURROUNDED BY FLOWERS WAS SHARED WITH ALL!! The response by the children and their families was one of excitement and awe! Remote learning enabled the children to participate in the Butterfly Life Cycle observation experiment! The parents and family involvement with their children made this time even more special!
Fly Little Butterflies Fly! !Vuelen, mariposas pequenas, vuelen!