On this day, we headed outside on one of those rare tolerable days in the height of a Carolina summer. We were sitting outside watching the butterflies on the back porch, something no good Southern home can do without. I had a butterfly reference book and turned to the page which had about six different butterflies. At first, Pamela guessed the monarch but figured out she had painted ladies on her second attempt. We both watched them probing the flowers for nectar with very long, thin, whip-like tongues. I thought this would be another opportunity to spotlight a new word (proboscis) and enter it in her nature notebook.
The night before, I noticed some strange blue-green spots on one of the flowers we had in the butterfly garden. My first reaction was disgust because it reminded me of mold. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were eggs! Hallelujah!
I decided not to tell Pamela what they were and simply talk about what they might be. She suggested flower seeds, but I pointed out that the seeds of this flower were yellow, not blue-green. I tried to guide her into the answer by pointing to something familiar, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, a book she has loved most of her life. Pamela became overstimulated and couldn't stand the thought of me getting the book, saying, "You're killing me!" I respected her request and grabbed a generic reference book about butterflies. When I turned the page to the life cycle, she immediately realized they were eggs. Later, when we were making notes in our nature journal, Pamela was really interested in talking about the future, which tells me her ideas of time and grammar tense are starting to clear up.
To celebrate our beautiful eggs, Pamela and I painted them in watercolors and they look so beautiful. She made her picture so small and, because she placed her egg illustration in just the right spot, I plan to turn it into her very own watercolor of the life cycle of a painted lady butterfly.
I am not sure the eggs will hatch. If they do, we can observe the larva from day one and see molting. After that, we may order silkworm eggs and follow guidelines for raising them. At that point, she can view the life cycle of these moths and compare it to that of butterflies from a same, but different point of view. With all that personal experience and background knowledge secure, we might try reading the four chapters on butterflies in The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre, which we can read online at Baldwin Stories: butterflies and their eggs, caterpillars, silk, and metamorphosis. Fabre, a naturalist with a flair for engaging non-scientific minds into nature study, writes so enchantingly that his books on insects remain classics over a century later.
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