Thursday, October 18, 2012

Butterflies & Moths: Reading Recs, Suggestions & Links

Below are some reading recommendations, suggestions and links to go along with the Butterfly/Moth Lesson from Monday's post.

Recommended Reading:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (E. Carle)++
The Butterfly Alphabet (Kjell Sandved) *this book is MAG-nificent, but out of print so it may be hard to find. I put in a special request at the library for it so we could enjoy it in class
Butterflies (Seymour Simon)
Are You a Butterfly? (Judy Allen & Tudor Humphries)
Ten Little Caterpillars (E.Carle)
Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire! (Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser)
Info & Suggestions:
See the IMAX film currently playing at the MD Science Center on Monarchs. While quite pricey, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Play the "Butterfly or Moth?" game. Give them hints about the insect and have them guess which you're talking about. ("I have feathery antennae...", or show pictures)
Visit the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy Butterfly Exhibit next May when it re-opens. It's an amazing experience and very, very educational. Take your camera!

++Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, but please note that it says the butterfly emerges from a cocoon. This is incorrect! They actually form a chrysalis (pl. chrysalides, pr. kris-SAL-lid-deez) in the pupa stage and NOT a cocoon. Cocoons are for moths.

Raise your own butterflies and release them into the wild when they emerge. You can order butterfly kits online (Google this info) OR look around your neighborhood for plants that have eggs on their leaves (make sure you properly identify the plant & eggs before bringing them into your home) or chrysalides to take inside (for free!).

Help the environment by creating a habitat for butterflies in your yard. Buy potted plants or plant a butterfly garden with flowers known to draw them in and put out some basking stones to create a good habitat for them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Butterflies & Moths 2

Here is the detailed lesson on butterflies and moths I used to teach my class:

Butterflies & Moths
  • Both are Insects: They have six legs, two pairs of wings, and are segmented into a head, a thorax and an abdomen; They have an exoskeleton

  • They drink from their proboscis, like a straw

  • They smell with their antennae and taste with their feet

  • They have compound eyes and can see everywhere at once.

  • They go through a complete metamorphosis, meaning "changing shape" to become a butterfly.
    • No one but Allah knows how they do it, but caterpillars completely dissolve into a liquid inside their chrysalis/cocoon & re-form into a butterfly/moth. Inside, the pupa grows six legs, wings, a proboscis & antennae. 
  • They are found everywhere on earth except Antarctica and can be as large as 12 inches wide

  • Their four wings are covered in tiny, colorful scales

  • Most butterflies have very brightly colored wings and long, narrow, and smooth bodies

  • Butterflies are often more colorful than moths because butterflies are active during the day.

  • Butterflies and moths rely on different senses to help them find food.  

  • Because butterflies are active during the day, color is important for them to live- they like to drink from brightly colored flowers.

  • Most butterflies have club-shaped antennae or antennae with knobs on the end.

  • Life cycle: Egg, Caterpillar, Pupa (chrysalis, chrysalides), Butterfly
  •  **Butterflies form a chrysalis **
    • Female butterflies and moths lay eggs only on plants that will be the correct food for the larvae when they hatch.
  • Life cycle: Egg, Caterpillar, Pupa (cocoon), Moth
  •  **Moths form cocoons**

  • Most moths have short, fat, and furry looking bodies

  • Moths are nocturnal, which is why they are dark-colored, most moths have dull, earthy colored wings. Since moths are active at night, these earthy colors camouflage or help them hide while they sleep during the day. They cannot rely on visible color to help them find food.  Instead, moths rely on smell.  

  • Their antennae look like feathers or taper to a point

  • Moths’ feather-like antennae have greater surface area than the club-shaped antennae of butterflies.  This allows them to detect scents.  

  • Moths are often attracted to night-blooming flowers with strong smells.

  • Moths have a thicker coating of scales than butterflies, giving them a furry appearance.  These heavy scales help keep them from losing heat during the night when they are most active.

Show: Butterfly & Moth specimens & book: Butterflies (Seymour Simon)
Read: Are You a Butterfly?

Butterfly habits
As caterpillars they eat leaves; as adults, they drink nectar from flowers & the juice of rotting fruit.
Butterflies warm themselves on a warm stone in the mornings before they start their day. It helps them to fly.
They can see red, green and yellow.
Some live only for 1 week, while other species live up to a year.

Spotlight on Monarchs
Their chrysalis looks like jewelry, it is green with gold dots around the top.
Monarch butterflies migrate, or fly south for the winter just like birds do.
They fly a distance as far as from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico every year. They only make the trip one time, but somehow their babies know where to go to find their way back to the very same place their ancestors began.
They save energy by gliding on warm air called "thermals" since they have such a long trip.
They eat milkweed as a caterpillar, which makes them taste really bad and whatever predator eats them usually feels sick enough to never want to try them again.
The Viceroy has wings that are an example of mimicry- it looks a lot like a monarch- so that predators see it and might leave it alone. It protects them from being eaten.

Butterflies you can see in MD
There are lots of kinds of butterflies in MD. Some that I have seen in my yard are Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Monarchs, and Cloudless Sulphurs. The correct way to hold a butterfly or moth is to put your finger out and gently scoot it under its legs. Never grab its wings. It is a myth that it won't be able to fly if you touch its wings, BUT it's a good idea to leave its wings untouched if possible because you could hurt them or break them if you are too rough.

At the end of class, I gave them a craft to take home and encouraged them to decorate the wings with markers and/or draw veins on the wings.

Look out for a follow-up post on Thursday for Recommended Reading and other suggestions and links!

About this Post

Butterflies & Moths

About this post
So I'm up to bat again for teaching at the beloved Co-Op (or 'coop' in our shorthand emails;^)). I chose Science- well, really, it chose me because I began to get all these random ideas of what I could excitedly teach the kids so I went with it. Never look an inspiration gift-horse in the mouth. Or re-invent the wheel...I'm happily recycling these LP's for our homeschool classroom, too. Even though Babygirl is in my coop class this time around, I think she can bear to hear it all again for the sake of her sister's learning.

So for the next five weeks or five posts, I will be sharing my lesson plans and class happenings with you in a slightly different format than the norm. Also, my target age range is 4-7 year olds. Bear with me. 


We began all of our insect classes by learning relevant signs for our topic. For this class, they learned three new signs: 'butterfly/moth", "fly" (verb) and "flower". 

We talked about the word "butterfly/moth" in the Qur'an found in Al Qaria 101:4. *A good friend gave me a great suggestion, which I love and still re-use for lots of things: she said give them the word "faraasha" in Arabic and then when you recite the ayat for them aloud, have them raise their hands when they hear the word "faraasha".

We went on to discuss butterfly, moth, and insect anatomy & their life cycle, as well as the similarities and differences between butterflies and moths. The kids learned to identify and distinguish between them by sight & practiced by looking at full-color photos on the computer & in some books we read. 

They used a magnifying glass to look at dead specimens I collected from our neighborhood of a moth and two butterflies. I made sure to keep the insects either in a small, glass jar that was easy for them to safely handle or in a ziploc bag that they could hold flat in their palms. I had a toy prism on hand to serve as a tactile demonstration of a "compound eye" that they could look through. 

More detailed lessons on butterflies & moths

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Learning About the Brain 2

As promised, here are the activities that go along with my most recent post about the Brain. Some of these worked great with a larger group so we got to do them in class. However, in the interest of simplicity and saving my sanity (ha!) I tucked away some really great, more involved activities for our homeschool classroom.

Brain Games
I split the kids into 2 teams for this series of activities. On each turn, each student won a point for their team if they completed the challenge successfully. I used scoring and points to make it more fun but in the end, everyone got candy;^)...which is all that really matters, right??

Stroop test- I used a variety of colored dry-erase markers to write these out on the board. They had to tell me the color ink the word was written in, NOT read the word. For the little ones that couldn't yet read, it was a cinch. For the older kids, not so much, and I definitely saw some very funny brain twitching going on. 

Memory game- I read out a series of 5-10 words and had them (as a team) recall them back to me. They only had one shot to listen to and repeat the list back to me, after all, it's a memory test. You can also do this with pictures- show a series of pictures and have them tell you what they saw. For a challenge, require that they be told back to you in order. 

Memory tray game- I put a variety of 7 unrelated objects on a tray and allowed them a few seconds to look over them. They had to tell me what they saw. Since they're so young, I let them pool their memories and counted each right answer. They were great at backing each other up- if one forgot, another remembered. Great teamwork!

Reflexes protect the body automatically by protecting us, getting us away from danger, or preparing us to face it (think: fight or flight).

  • I cut the fluorescent lights in favor of a black light and took turns shining a flashlight into each student's eyes so the other students could see their  classmate's pupils constrict (the muscle is actually relaxing) and dilate (the muscle is actually contracting). I explained that the brain automatically blocks out excess light the eye doesn't need to see to prevent damage to it.
  • I distracted them by having them think about something else while I stepped to the back of the classroom and dropped a full pencil case unexpectedly (this was fun for me- is that bad? Probably.). I then surveyed them to see who:
    1.Twitched or jumped
    2. Moved their heads
    3. Blinked
    4. Put their hands up
    5. Screamed
  • I explained to them briefly what a Braille Cell is and what it's used for. I then had them close their eyes and feel the Braille letter I'd given them to glue to one side of an index-card-sized rectangle of construction paper. To make: The day before, I printed out these Braille letters, dabbed school glue on them, and let them dry overnight. I cut them up into individual Braille Cells to hand out in class once they were dry. 

  • On the other side of the construction paper "card" I had them glue the strips of paper I'd cut out beforehand that contained the symbols we used for the blind spot test. Here are the instructions I gave them for the test:
    1. Extend your left arm all the way out and hold the card.
    2. Cover your right eye while focusing on the plus, which should be on your right side.
    3. Slowly bring the card toward you and KEEP LOOKING AT THE PLUS!!!! You will notice the spot disappear after awhile.
    4. Congratulations, you've found your blind spot!

Here are some activities we didn't get to do in class or that I assigned for Homework:
  • Tactile Maze- Make a maze of dried glue on a sheet of cardboard in the same way you made the Braille dots. Have kids navigate the maze wearing a blindfold or with closed eyes. The pattern shouldn't be too difficult to figure out.
  • Two Images/Two nerves Instructions: 

    1. Make your right hand into a circle and put your open left hand next to it, palm facing outward. 
    2. Keeping your hands together, bring both of them close to your face, so that you are looking through the circle that your right hand makes, with your right eye, like a scope.  Make sure to keep your keep your left eye open! 
    3. What you should see is a hole in your left hand!! Why? Because your brain is getting two different of the hole in the paper and one of your left hand.
  • Ruler Test Instructions Test your reflexes! How fast are you?
    1. Have someone hold a ruler, largest numbers up, while you place your fingers near it, ready to catch it but DON'T TOUCH!
    2. They should drop the ruler at random times to see how fast you can catch it.
    3. Try catching it at least 3 times and write down your time, based on the chart below. Notice how quickly the brain is able to react. Its messages can travel over 200mph!!
    4. Did your reflexes get faster with practice? (If Yes, see how quickly your brain learned? If No, keep trying!)
2 in (~5 cm)
0.10 sec (100 ms)
4 in (~10 cm)
0.14 sec (140 ms)
6 in (~15 cm)
0.17 sec (170 ms)
8 in (~20 cm)
0.20 sec (200 ms)
10 in (~25.5 cm)
0.23 sec (230 ms)
12 in (~30.5 cm)
0.25 sec (250 ms)
17 in (~43 cm)
0.30 sec (300 ms)
24 in (~61 cm)
0.35 sec (350 ms)
31 in (~79 cm)
0.40 sec (400 ms)
39 in (~99 cm)
0.45 sec (450 ms)
48 in (~123 cm)
0.50 sec (500 ms)
69 in (~175 cm)
0.60 sec (600 ms)

Cool Links: 

Note: Although I like to put my own spin on the cool things I find and very often, create my own activities from scratch, not all of the activities above are my own ideas. I created some and some were inspired by, tweaked, or borrowed from the links I've included in this and related posts. Please visit the links I included for sources.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Learning About the Brain

About this post
So I'm up to bat again for teaching at the beloved Co-Op (or 'coop' in our shorthand emails;^)). I chose Science- well, really, it chose me because I began to get all these random ideas of what I could excitedly teach the kids so I went with it. Never look an inspiration gift-horse in the mouth. Or re-invent the wheel...I'm happily recycling these LP's for our homeschool classroom, too. Even though Babygirl is in my coop class this time around, I think she can bear to hear it all again for the sake of her sister's learning.

So for the next six weeks or six posts, I will be sharing my lesson plans and class happenings with you in a slightly different format than the norm. Also, my target age range is 4-7 year olds. Bear with me. 


Yesterday we talked about the Brain. I covered some big words with the kids but they weren't all intimidated by them, Maasha'Allah. I told them not to worry so much about memorizing the words, but to just listen and have fun. 

I explained that without the nervous system, we couldn't do anything at all. It's made up of the brain, spinal cord and lots of tiny nerves that run all throughout the whole body. Together, they are like a very fancy computer. There are about 45 mi of nerves throughout the whole body!! An adult brain is very lightweight, weighing about 3 pounds.

Because they're so young, I simplified the main parts of any brain to only one or a few of their primary functions: 
  • Cerebrum- thinking and deciding to do or not do something (Qur'an 96, 15-16, I just paraphrased this a bit by saying Allah tells us that we use the front part of our brain when we decide between doing right and wrong and of course that, many years later, science has confirmed this to be true). It is also used in actively deciding to make movements with your body, not for your heart or to shiver, for example, which you don't have much control over.
  • Cerebellum- controls balance and movement. They had fun hopping around on one foot!
  • Stem- connects the brain to the spinal cord. Controls reflexes and helps your body remember to breathe, to circulate your blood and digest your food. It also sorts messages passing from the brain to the body and vice-versa. I unexpectedly dropped a box at the back of the room to startle them, then surveyed them to see what their reaction was. I explained that this was their body getting ready to defend or run to protect itself (wide eyes, jumping to their feet, turning to look immediately) and that they didn't even have to think about doing any of this. We also looked in each other's eyes in the dark with a flashlight to see the pupil get smaller. They were amazed at how quickly this happened and that it happened at all. Again it's to protect your eyes from damage via too much light.
  • Pituitary gland- controls basic desires/needs, we talked about this gland reminding the body to eat and also sending out chemicals to tell the body to grow. 
  • Hypothalamus- maintains your body temperature by telling your body to shiver and sweat.

We did a bunch of brain games and activities (to be included in a follow-up post later this week) so they could put their brains to the test and see them working- always fun and funny! They split into two teams and competed in the The Stroop test (where you try to tell the color of the word you see and not read the word. Hard to do because your brain wants to read the word.), memory trays (where you try to remember objects you saw briefly on a tray, we did 7), memory games (where you try to remember a series of 5-10 words recited quickly and one time to you; can be done with pictures, too)

Without telling them what I was testing, we then tested handedness, footedness, earedness & sightedness, which would explain the R,L I wrote in marker on their hands.  I had them throw an object to me one-handed, step on a post-it stuck to the floor, lean in for a secret and sight images through a tube.  The letter on their hands corresponds to which side they favored, right or left. Some kids were one or the other, and some were both. At the end of the test, I told them what the writing on their hands meant. 

I had them make a construction paper "card" about the size of an index card on which they glued a strip of paper to do a test at home to find the blind spot in their retinas. This is the special spot reserved for the optic nerve to pass through instead of light receptors being present in that spot. Instructions for using this will be in my next post.

Last but most fun, we hit the lights again, except for a black light, and they stuck their hands into Feel Boxes to see what their brains were telling them they were feeling. They could make noise but were not allowed to talk, for fear they'd tell the others what they'd guessed and ruin the surprises. 

I used:
  • a Ziploc full of warm water
  • a large, smooth rock
  • sandpaper
  • a knitted scarf
  • a Koosh ball 
  • cooked spaghetti on a small plate inside the boxes. This freaked some of them out and I had to assure them that nothing was moving or alive. 
I did a big reveal at the end so they could see if they were right. I used shoeboxes turned upside down with an arch cut into them large enough for their hands to fit. I used masking tape to tape the boxes to the table because just as I had suspected, they got excited and some of the boxes shifted a bit. They would have ended up on the floor had it not been for the tape, I'm certain of it. I also had to cover the boxes with a large scarf to keep them from peeking in before we hit the lights.

Stay tuned for my follow-up post containing suggestions, details and links for activities we did or that I thought were cool enough to mention.