Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Life Cycle Continues

The continuing story of our caterpillar rescue....

We left the rescued chrysalids carefully protected and pegged to other plants in our garden. Over the holidays they all hatched and this is all I could find when I went to check on them in the second week of the holidays. If you look very closely, you can see the almost transparent 'case' still attached to the dead seed pod.
Meantime, other eggs hatched on some of the rescued plants and branches which we are keeping alive in a bucket of water in the garden. There are at least five new caterpillars living on these branches.

Can you find the tiny water droplet in this photo?

And, the aphids are back too. There is no sign of any ladybirds or their larvae but I'm sure it won't be long before they turn up.

If you look very closely, you might see and ant on one of the leaves, heading towards the aphids to collect their 'honey dew'.

Thursday 28th April - I found some ladybirds very near the aphids. Can you see how close they are?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly (cake)?

This term our whole school has been focusing on improving our recount writing. There are several types of recounts but the one we are working on in Huia 1 at the moment is a personal recount. Mrs Vincent 'modelled' some of the following recount using the data projector and explained why she chose the words she used - or why she made changes. Then, in groups, we wrote our own versions to complete the story and she summarised and edited them to create the final recount. When we re-read it together, we had to identify all the features which made this a recount- such as: orientation, events in chronological order, time words, past tense, conclusion, connecting words and conjunctions, as well as an interesting use of vocabulary.

We were not expecting yesterday to be particularly special, but a series of events happened which completely threw our daily plan out the window. Consequently, we think we ended up learning more than we would have done if Mrs Vincent had followed her plan.

Callum, Ben, Hoani, Wade and Matthew were representing our school at the Central Counties soccer tournament and Nikhil was absent so we couldn't do any testing because too many people were away. How disappointing! Meanwhile, a woman from Cambridge University in England came to survey the rest of Huia 1 and Kea 1 students to get information for her PhD research. It was the most gloriously warm and sunny autumn day - the kind that makes people want to say, "Isn't this just the most glorious day?" and expect everyone to agree with them. In comparison, our classroom was cold and dark and dull, so, after the survey, we joined Mrs Whitehead's class in a game of longball on the court until morning tea. It was a golden opportunity to make up for missing our P.E lesson the previous day. The tone of the day was set!

Morning tea was over and Mrs Vincent decided it was still far too perfect a day outside not to take advantage of this golden opportunity to learn more about our garden and its inhabitants.
Caitlin and Krizelle were sent to select non-fiction library books about plants, weeds and insects and, with Ricki-Jean, they set out to identify the weeds in our garden. They discovered that black nightshade, creeping mallow and hawkesbeard were some of the weeds in our garden. We think it's hawkesbeard - although it could be a dandelion. Jakob took photos of the swan plants and Terence was observing an average everyday caterpillar household in the cabbage and broccoli plants in our school vegetable garden. He discovered that the average caterpillar produces a large amount of poo which gets trapped at the base of the cabbage leaves. Meanwhile, others researched the monarch butterfly life cycle on the computers. They found some fascinating You Tube sites showing the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis.

After we discovered that the white butterfly and larvae were pests, some of the boys took up the interesting job of eliminating them. All of the boys tried to catch white butterflies and we learned how to kill them humanely so that they did not suffer. We collected the green caterpillars in a lunch box and instead of squashing them, we put the lunch box in the freezer to kill them humanely, and then gave them to Mrs Whitehead to take home for her chooks to eat.

At midday, a group were called away to have immunisation talks with the public health nurse and the rest of the class went to the library to choose picture books to read to Mrs Bradshaw's class after lunch. We abandoned our garden for a brief interlude of reading to the juniors - still outside in the early afternoon warmth- and then returned to complete our research and cabbage caterpillar cull.

Towards the end of the day, after Mrs Vincent decided it was all too noisy, we settled down to practise our recount writing skills in peace and quiet until the bell went at 2:50 p.m. Meanwhile, back at soccer, our team was undefeated. Our boys played non-stop with only one minute changeover times between games so they were shattered by the end of their tournament. They have now qualified for the Counties Zone tournament and we are very proud of them.

It was one of those days which we will probably remember every time we see a white butterfly or its green caterpillar - especially if we decide to grow cabbages in our own gardens. Mrs Whitehead reported that her chooks loved the caterpillars and we can look forward to some happy hen eggs early next term. Mrs Vincent suggested we could then make butterfly cakes to demonstrate the ultimate in recycling.

The irony of our recent experiences is that last week we were learning to save the lives of some caterpillars and butterflies and this week we learned to kill others.

"I wish I was here yesterday," said Nikhil.

(And now, watch this You Tube video about the life cycle of a butterfly - in Spanish. How much can you now understand?)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Catering for Caterpillars - An update on the survivors

A relocated caterpillar has already turned into a chrysalis on its new plant.
A dead caterpillar. We are not quite sure how or why it died - or even if it is a monarch butterfly caterpillar.
Getting ready to turn into a chrysalis.
There's a lot of interest in our caterpillars.
Some really interesting facts about aphids and lady birds.... The new home for the caterpillars has a lot of aphids on it.
Sarah talks about the caterpillars to some of the juniors who were checking out the swan plant at lunchtime.

Caterpillars and ladybirds seem to be enjoying their new home.
Watch this video and this one about a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis.
Lady birds on the seed pods.

We put all the cut branches in a big bucket of water in the garden and started searching for eggs and any tiny caterpillars.
We found some really tiny caterpillars and made sure they were safely relocated on juicy leaves. Hopefully the branches in water will stay fresh enough for the caterpillars to grow fat and healthy.

We have a big caterpillar and a tiny one on a swan plant branch in the classroom.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Great Caterpillar Massacre and Rescue

A great loss occurred in our class's garden during the late hours of this morning. Part of our swan plant, home to our much-loved caterpillars, chrysalids and ladybirds (but not aphids) had split and torn away but the plant was still alive and growing. We had been following the progress of several caterpillars who had recently turned into chrysalids. (See previous blogs)

Huia 1 had just settled down to our 100 Need to Know Spelling Words end-of-term test when we noticed our caretaker cutting down our swan plant. Mrs Vincent was the first one to be shocked and she shrieked, "Aaaaaaaaaaaah...... the caterpillars!"

She dashed out of the room but it was too late. The caretaker had already cut the plant down and was piling up the branches on the court beside the garden. Mrs Vincent explained that our class was studying the life cycles of monarch butterflies and swan plants.

At that point, Mrs Vincent decided to postpone the spelling test and we launched a search and rescue operation instead. We brought all the branches inside and looked for survivors.

We found two baby caterpillars, many large caterpillars, a couple of chrysalids and many lady birds which we relocated on a swan plant near the junior classes.

We noticed that the tips of the branches on this swan plant were covered in aphids so we knew that they could affect the health of the new host swan plant. Because we knew that ladybirds eat aphids, we relocated as many ladybirds as we could find.

With the chrysalids, we cut the branches on which they were hanging and pegged them to a washing line in our class. We are going to keep them safe until they hatch into monarch butterflies. Some people will take them home to care for them over the weekend.

Terence and Nikhil found a caterpillar which was not a monarch butterfly caterpillar and went to the library to identify it. It looked like it was a cabbage butterfly caterpillar which meant we should have killed it, but it looked as if it was dying by itself.

Hoani found a praying mantis and Danny found a shiny blue lady bird. Tegan found a whitish lady bird with black spots where its eyes could have been but she doesn't think they were eyes. We also found a few small black and yellow/orange insects which we have yet to identify. In the classroom we have some eggs and a baby caterpillar on a swan plant branch in a glass of water and outside, we have bigger swan plant branches sitting in buckets of water.

Some caterpillars had been crushed underfoot as they fell off the plants and Callum saw another dead one being eaten by ants, so he buried them and put flowers on their grave and made a tombstone out of one of the succulent plant leaves. "That's respect," said Nikhil.

By lunchtime, we had just about finished the rescue. Meanwhile, in the classroom, some people were reading, catching up work in their Anthology books, and Michael, Tegan, Hunter, Fili, Shayla and Danny were picking up hundreds of tiny swan plant seeds which had dropped on our floor.

After all that, the spelling test was abandoned for the day and we wrote this recount about the events of the day instead. This had turned into an excellent learning experience because it showed how much knowledge we had learned since we discovered the first caterpillar on our swan plant a few weeks ago. We were proud of what we had done in such an unexpected event.

Mrs Vincent said, "Spelling test tomorrow..."