Tag Archives: science fun

Gracen Raises Butterflies: Release Day

Well, the big day finally came…  As of yesterday morning, all 8 of our caterpillars had successfully completed the transition to butterflies (yay for a 100% success rate!)  We watched them for one final day, the newbies drying and pumping up their wings and the others slurping up juice from fresh fruit, knowing that if the weather cooperated, today would be release day.  

With the rain clouds gone, the sun shining, and still plenty of time before dark, we decided to set our butterflies free as soon as Gracen woke up from her nap.  Before heading into the backyard, we had a little chat about what releasing the butterflies actually meant.  We talked about how they’d enjoyed their time with us, but they’d also love flying free in nature.  We talked about the things they’d do once released, like fly, drink nectar, and lay eggs…  And we talked about the fact that once they were released, they wouldn’t be coming back to us.  This initially made her a little sad, but she was okay with it after I explained that they had things to do and they’d be alright on their own.

IMG 8192Because there were a couple of butterflies enjoying the orange when we were ready to take them outside, I decided to make the somewhat risky move of taking the orange slice, butterflies perched atop,  outside on its own.  The hut was positioned close to a door, and luckily neither flew off before I safely got outdoors.  In fact, this little one continued to slip up juice from the orange for quite a while, even once completely free to go.

IMG 8243With our two hungry butterflies already outside and the rest of the fruit removed from the bottom of the hut, it was time to take the entire enclosure out.  Though I’ve done it on my own in the past, this truly is a two person job.  I gently shooed the butterflies hanging out near the bottom of the enclosure up to the top, collected the four flaps at the opening, and Brad unpinned it from the ceiling.  Walking very slowly in order to keep the enclosure taut and not squish any butterflies, we brought the whole thing outside, laid it on its side in the grass, and opened up the bottom.

IMG 8255IMG 8208While you might expect them to be in a rush to fly off to their freedom, for the most part, they’re not.  Except for one, I retrieved the butterflies from inside the hut by gently coaxing them to climb onto my finger, then brought them out into the open.

IMG 8250The cool part is that most will hang around a while, giving you a great opportunity to see them up close without mesh intruding on your view.

IMG 8211IMG 8194This is also a great time for little ones to ‘hold’ a butterfly too.  All you have to do gently coax the butterfly {without touching their wings obviously} into climbing onto your finger, then place your finger on the edge of the child’s hand to make a careful transfer.  You can do it lots of different ways, but I personally like putting the butterfly on the topside of the child’s hand as it prevents the gut reaction of closing the fingers around the butterfly when it decides to fly off.

IMG 8268IMG 8239When they decide to go, some will fly off high into the blue sky until you lose sight, while others will land on a nearby plant.  Another possibility is that they’ll fly for a bit and decide to touch down on the grass, so be sure to be mindful of where you’re walking.  

IMG 8222I’m so, so glad that we decided to do raise butterflies with Miss G this year.  As each butterfly eventually made it’s way off, Gracen would call out, “Buh bye, butterfly!  Have a funny day!”  – a happy goodbye.  It’s been an amazing learning experience, and without a doubt, she’s learned a ton.  She uses all kinds of new words now and can tell you all about the butterfly life cycle and butterfly parts.  Best of all, she’s learned this all in a hands-on, meaningful way without actually realizing that she was learning. ☺

To see all of the posts in our Gracen Raises Butterflies series, click here.


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: Hanging Our Chrysalises

IMG 9790With our butterfly enclosure ready and our first chrysalises ready to be hung, Miss G and I had to get a little creative this morning.  When raising butterflies in my classroom, I used to hang the chrysalises from the inside of a wooden block that was open on two sides, but without one of those at our disposal, we decided to try and craft one.  A box, some packaging tape, and a utility knife later, we had this.  As you can see, it certainly ain’t pretty.  Buuuut, it gets the job done.

IMG 9792Once the newly-formed  chrysalises had been left alone for 12 – 24 hours, we very carefully lifted the lids off of the containers, gently loosening the webbing off of the container walls with a paintbrush if needed.  Then we simply created tape rolls using a good strong masking tape, and stuck the lids to the ceiling of our homely box block.  This is where they’ll hang now until the final step of their transformation takes place.

IMG 9799As for our other guys who are still busy eating, they all got a good container cleaning and fresh food.  Let’s hope this is a welcomed change and not something that harms their ability to begin their transformation.

IMG 9799And while I was busy cutting, hanging, and cleaning, Miss G worked on her own project beside me.  When she was done, she brought me her scrap cardboard and explained, “First we have fuzzy yittle caterpillars, and then they build their chrysalises.  You wait for a long, long, loooooong time, and they POP out and be butterflies!  Then the butterflies will fly, fly, fly away.” She never ceases to amaze me.


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: We Have Chrysalises!

IMG 9732It’s day 4 with our caterpillars and look at what we have today!  We woke up to find that three of our fuzzy little caterpillars had build their chrysalises over night.  We were actually cleaning up from breakfast already when Gracen called out, “Some of the caterpillars built their chrysalises, Mama!”

IMG 9726And thank goodness.  If they weren’t pupas today, I was going to go into their containers and do a major clean up.  I know that school kits normally say that once the container is closed, leave it closed, and that handling them as little as possible is best, but it can’t be fun to live in your own poop.  Besides, from what I read, serious butterfly raisers clean out caterpillar frass daily.  For our 5 remaining caterpillars, it’s house cleaning day.  Wish me luck!


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: Preparing Our Butterfly Enclosure

With our fuzzy little friends happily in their new homes eating themselves silly, today Miss G and I went out to the garage to dig up one of the butterfly homes I made years ago when teaching my first ever Kindergarten class.  Of course, there are probably many different butterfly huts available for purchase online, but I’m typically a fan of making things myself if I can.  Such was the case 8 years too…  Instead of purchasing a readymade butterfly home, I opted to purchase several of these inexpensive mesh hanging storage tubes and modify them a wee bit.  

IMG 9717To start out, I carefully made two large perpendicular cuts on the very bottom of the storage unit in order to open it up.  Then, very carefully, I snipped out all of the mesh dividers that created the separate compartments.  

IMG 9718Next, using some picnic table covering plastic (found on large rolls at IKEA and hardware stores), I cut out circles just a hair larger than the circular openings along the sides of the tube.  With a hot glue gun and a hand I was wiling to burn repeatedly for the sake of my students and soon-to-be butterflies (just kidding…um… kinda ☺), I glued the plastic windows to the inside of my tube to cover up the holes (gluing them to the outside would have undoubtedly been easier, but that would have also allowed my hot glue slip-ups to be more obvious, which simply was not acceptable at the time).  

IMG 9719In order to create some homey resting ledges for my winged friends, I glued several brightly coloured faux flowers to the inside of the enclosure too. 

Though very wrinkled from years of storage, our butterfly enclosure is now hung from the ceiling so it rests perfectly on the tiny little table our chrysalises are going to sit on when they’re ready.

IMG 9722In the meantime, since we’re not at the chrysalis stage yet, I pinned up the butterfly enclosure, set our caterpillar containers on the little wooden table, and set up a little reading and observing corner for her to enjoy.  

IMG 9720Now to figure out how we’ll hang our chrysalises…  While teaching, I stuck them (still attached to their container lids) to the ceiling of a large wooden block that was open on two sides, but since we don’t have one of those, I’m going to have to get a little creative. We shall see what we come up with!


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: They’re Here!

IMG 9551IMG 9557IMG 9553When I saw that the awesome teachers’ store in our hometown, Vernon Teach & Learn, was selling butterfly larvae, I jumped on the opportunity and immediately put an order through by phone.  Now while I’m well aware that some people may think raising butterflies in your home is a tad on the crazy side, I actually think it’s pretty awesome.  It’s something I’ve done with my Kindergarten classes in the past and the process is nothing short of amazing.  For a child to be able to witness tiny caterpillars grow, build chrysalises, and emerge as butterflies up close and personal all in a span of a few weeks is pretty special.  I can’t wait to share the experience with Grae.  Ten fuzzy little caterpillars (two of which will be adopted by a friend tomorrow) arrived to our doorstep today and we couldn’t be more excited.

To order butterfly larvae of your own, contact Vernon Teach & Learn.  They are incredibly helpful and kind, and our caterpillars arrived here to Vancouver the day after ordering.  Their larvae packages can be found here.


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Exploring with Magic Potions

Exploring Magic Potions | Mama Papa BubbaThis afternoon the sun was out and I decided to set up something really fun for Grae to explore and experiment with in the backyard.

IMG 9234The set up was pretty simple…  Several differently shaped jars and medicine bottles filled with coloured vinegar (we used gel food colouring), a couple of small jars of baking soda, a couple of spoons, and a few empty mixing containers all on a tray.  Oh, and some safety goggles.  Because in Gracen’s world, science equals goggles. ☺

IMG 9246After helping her with her goggles, Grae set off to work.

IMG 9236As I usually do with this kind of activity, I didn’t give her any instructions.  I simply said, “Do you want to play?”

IMG 9237The answer was an excited ‘yes’, and after a few questions about whether or not she could dump/mix/pour things (of course the answer to all was yes), she got started.

IMG 9249While she’s seen the reaction baking soda and vinegar have while moon painting, this was on a much bigger scale.

IMG 9258And she loved it.  Mixing a little bit of this with a little bit of that in order to cause colour changes and fizzy foam eruptions was right up her alley.

IMG 9252My little scientist made reaction after reaction, delighting each time she caused foam to spew out of the top of her jar.

IMG 9259One thing that was interesting is how the colour of the vinegar seemed to change with the addition of baking soda.  In the case of the orange and the pink, the colours seemed to explode with brightness as the reactions occurred.

IMG 9270With almost all of her baking soda resources used up and her largest  jar of vinegar left, we fetched just a little more baking soda from in the house.

IMG 9274It started off slowly, but the reaction did not disappoint.  After scrounging leftover baking soda from wherever she could, she managed to create enough fizzing foam to have it flow generously out of the top of the jar.  Success!

After she’d depleted her resources, what was left was a beautiful rainbow-y mess.  For a little bit of added fun, we filled up a bin with warm soap water, grabbed a cloth, a scrubber brush, and a couple of towels, and had a little dishwashing station right there in the backyard.


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Moon Painting

I’ve had tons of fun little activities and cooking projects I’ve wanted to do with Miss G over the last couple of weeks, but all the gorgeous sunshiny weather we’ve been having has allowed for little more than bike rides, outdoor play, visits to the beach, and afternoons at the pool.  Darn weather!

Though we’ve been soaking up every moment of our summer, today’s dreariness was a welcomed change. Our house was cool, and we stayed in all morning playing and having fun {without melting}.

IMG 6752The first little activity we tried was what I call moon painting. It’s super simple and involves three basic things everyone with munchkins probably has at home – a tray of baking soda, food colouring dyed vinegar, and a few old medicine droppers / syringes.

IMG 6765See why I call it moon painting? The vinegar and soda mixture bubbles up and leaves little crater-covered splotches when it settles back down again.

IMG 6773Gracen really, really enjoyed this activity.  I demonstrated how to using the dropper, and she picked it up very quickly (although it did become harder near the end when there wasn’t as much of the vinegar mixture left).  She’d drop a little vinegar onto her tray, then point in excitement as it fizzed up in mound of bubbles.  Afterwards, she’d announce the colour of her newest splot.

IMG 6776Pinch…

IMG 6777Drop…

IMG 6786And watch the bubbles!

IMG 6779Moon craters in the making.

IMG 6791We did try using the syringes too, but we quickly learned that they led to great big swamps rather than moon craters, which caused less of a fizz.

IMG 6799So back to the dropper we went.

IMG 6810The end result was a tray covered in colourful craters and a little lady who would have done continued moon painting for the rest of the morning given the chance.  

Here’s a little video of Grae hard at play:

And the best part about this activity? Because both vinegar and baking soda are very effective natural cleaners,  clean up is a breeze!  Who would have thought your little one’s art project would equal a newly-shined kitchen sink?

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