Fly Like a Butterfly!

By Rinna Sanchez-Baluyut, Head Teacher 

“Fly like a butterfly.
Fly like a butterfly.
Fly like a butterfly through the sky.” 

This song, sung by Bari Koral, is often played during music and movement time in our Twos class. As soon as children hear this song, they grab their scarves, run around the yard and flap their arms pretending to fly like butterflies. This song became even more meaningful this year when caterpillars visited our classroom.

In the spring, tiny painted lady caterpillars arrived in bug jars for children to examine. The crawling larvae displayed their black fuzzy bodies and soft spine extensions as children observed their movements with magnifying glasses. The children shared what they noticed with their peers and teachers.

Gray: “They’re moving! This one’s not moving! Why isn’t he moving?”
Ollie: “They have many legs.”
Dylan: “What are they eating?”

Every day, some children would immediately head over to the caterpillars after arrival and would marvel at the changes. As the days and weeks progressed, the children continued to inspect the caterpillars diligently and patiently.

Tilly: “They’re more big!” 
Lainey: “They look like they got bigger!”
Gemma: “They got so big, so big! How did they get so big?”

A child looking at butterfly nets with chrysalides hanging from the top.

As the caterpillars grew and formed their chrysalides, a teacher transferred them to a bigger net enclosure. Fascinated and curious about this transformation, some children took a much closer look. Teachers would ask questions: “I wonder what they’re doing in their chrysalis? How long do you think they’ll stay inside?” Children readily shared their insights, observations and assumptions:

Juliet: “They turned into “tootoons” (cocoons)! They’re hanging from the top!” 
Lee: “It’s wearing a sleeping bag!” 
Peter: “And soon they’ll become butterflies! Big butterflies!”

The following week, the children discovered butterflies had emerged. Delighted and amazed by their transformation, children were captivated by the painted lady butterflies. They noticed their colors, their patterned wings and the food they were eating. They spent an extended period examining the butterflies.

Gray: “Hi, butterfly! It’s orange now! This one have brown, and orange and white.”
Naia: “I notice that one is very tiny.” 
Sarah: “Look at this one. This one is sleeping. It need to eat.” 
Aerin: “They eat outside. You know butterflies pollinate flowers. They need to drink the flowers. They need to find her mom. They need to go home with her daddy.” 

Once the butterflies were ready to take flight, the class slowly released them. The teacher gently took out one butterfly at a time and transferred it to a child’s hand. While some butterflies took flight, others decided to stay on a child’s hand, which offered an invaluable opportunity for children to admire and gaze at them. This experience even allowed one child who was anxious about butterflies to quell her fears as a butterfly calmly stayed on her hand for over 30 minutes. 

Children observing a painted lady butterfly resting on a peer's hand.

Throughout the caterpillars’ metamorphoses to butterflies, the children regularly visited, observed and investigated the transformation. They hunted daily for changes in the caterpillars and looked through books to deepen their understanding of the process. Additionally, teachers offered materials such as paint, colored pencils and markers so children could create their own interpretations of the caterpillars and butterflies. 

We noticed that as the children examined the caterpillars in the bug jars and the butterflies in their hands, they remained patient and regulated their impulses, showing compassion and gentleness toward the small creatures. Although excited by the transformation, the children remained calm and quiet to avoid frightening the butterflies. This shared experience allowed children to participate in a joint conversation about the process and express their thoughts, share their observations and ask questions. 

The children’s interest in the natural world was not limited to caterpillars. This became evident as they searched for other small living things in our yard. Roly-polies, slugs, ladybugs and spiders were some of the other creatures they keenly sought out and placed in bug jars that were later shared during story time. 

Although the progression of this metamorphosis took a few weeks, children invested their time and energy, building curiosity about what would transpire. Their observations brought new meaning to the song “Fly Like a Butterfly” as children grabbed those scarves and flapped their own wings when they danced during music time.