Friday it happened.
I always forget – that at some point in October – someone is going to find a wooly bear caterpillar on the playground.
And so I’m not always ready to deal with the inevitable desire of 17 headstrong preschoolers to not just touch the small creature but to possess it.
Wouldn’t you know the poor thing was found by one of my most needy and unpredictable students – you know the one from my last entry – and he was determined to be in charge of this precious find. Lucky for me it was found early in our recess period so the desire to play on the equipment persuaded the child to relinquish the ball of fur to my palm while he ran around the playground. I let others touch it and promised to get the habitat box out so we could all have some time investigating his find.
I know more caterpillars will appear over the next few weeks, they are always about this time of year. We’ve had as many as 5 in the box at a time with all sorts of outside finds stuffed in to make them feel at home – leaves, sticks, walnut shells, a feather. And I try to make sure we let them go on Fridays before the weekend.
I think such finds are bona-fide treasure! This year I’m working hard to pay attention to emergent curriculum and use these opportunities to foster questions, discussions, reflections, new exploration ideas. I wanted to use this opportunity with the caterpillar for something new to happen in the group.
So I held the habitat box in my lap at circle time when we gathered after recess. The caterpillar was still curled in a ball in the corner of the bare box – no habitat created for it yet. “Why do you think this caterpillar is curled up in a ball?” A few hands shoot up but I wait. Susy translates my question into Spanish and I wait. Then I start pointing – and restating – and waiting again – making sure I get contributions from my confident speakers and those who are less so.
S “Because he wants food.”
T “Oh, you think the caterpillar is curled up in a ball because he is hungry. What are some other reasons the caterpillar is curled up in a ball?”
S “He wants water.”
T “You have another idea. You think the caterpillar is thirsty and might need water. And you, why do you think the caterpillar is curled up in a ball?”
T “Yes, you are thinking the same thing as L. – that the caterpillar is hungry. Do someone have another idea?”
S “Because he wants his momma.”
T “The caterpillar might be in a ball because he wants his mommy. Have you ever felt like that?” (nods from all around me) “So the caterpillar is curled up in a ball because he might be hungry or thirsty or want his mommy.”
S “He wants to be out in the grass where he can move around.”
(Whoa! Cool! Wasn’t expecting that!)
T “Yes, the caterpillar might be scared. What does your face look like when you are scared? Yes, this caterpillar is probably hungry and thirsty and he might be lonely. And if I was a caterpillar, I’d want to be in the grass too!”
Then class was interrupted by a visit from some other staff members – but maybe tomorrow we’ll get to an agreement about what to do with the future of the caterpillars that are surely going to be appearing in our classroom over the next month.