"If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos."
Such a striking statement and reminder for us as adults. Given this interdependence, and given the perilous state of bees and other insects in our world, learning about them is a natural and important work. For the children, we begin at the beginning. We strive to cultivate the children's interest, deep respect, and understanding in a fun way, and as much as possible, we dispel those feelings of bug annoyance or fear which are all too common.
The good news is that this is easy to do with children. They have a natural affinity for small creatures, and they love to learn. How many times have we heard a voice cry out, "I found an ant!" So we did exactly what Maria Montessori advised in the quote at the top: we created an environment rich in motives which lend interest to activity, and invited children to conduct their own experiences.
Here are some glimpses of those motives and experiences....
The butterfly life cycle is most familiar. We put out these classic cards, with plastic models, and the children make booklets. I ordered the painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, and watched them form their chrysalises (as it happens, they emerged over a week-end - I saw it coming, fourth of July week-end, and sent them home with a family.) The five butterflies came back to us on Monday morning, and on Wednesday we released them out in the garden, where they lingered for a while (the top photo).
For a whole year I had saved a wonderful new collection of life cycle models with a big mat to lay them out, a set that I found at the Montessori Congress last summer. Ant, bee, meal worm, and ladybug, along with the life cycle of bean seed and frog - these models have been used daily. Here you can see the ant and bee part of that mat.
I brought in a bag of 1000 ladybugs, which led to a wonderful morning of watching, holding, and releasing ladybugs. We searched for and found some aphids, their favorite food, in our kale plants. "Stay with us, ladybugs!" We looked at the model of the ladybug larva, and the children painted ladybugs. They too lingered for a while.
(Brady's drawing took a whole morning)
(Rex learned so much more,
but this was his limit on writing)
Seamus could hardly believe he drew such a magnificent creature)