From Paper Scraps to Lesson Plans: How a Caterpillar turns into a Butterfly

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” ~ Stanley Horowitz

Ideas for developing an arts-based lesson plan can emerge in unexpected ways.  I love to be surprised when I see something in a new way, and somehow this thing suggests ways to put the pieces of a curriculum together in ways that engage children’s imagination while inviting exploration of math, literacy and science concepts.  A few weeks ago, children in my class made leaves for the birthday board. They got very excited about cutting up the remaining paper scraps; this not only allowed them to practise using scissors, it also gave me an idea for how to recycle the bits and pieces of paper.

Looking at the collection of scraps reminded me of Eric Carle’s beautiful book illustrations. As it is fall – an ideal time to explore butterfly migration – it seemed logical to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and to introduce the children to creating their own collages.  Not only would they learn about an interesting art technique, the story would introduce them in a simple way to the life cycle of the butterfly, and also to counting, as the caterpillar ate a variety of fruits and snacks.  To get a sense of the kind of creative lesson planning that this lovely picture book inspires, take a moment to listen to Eric Carle reading his story book aloud.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This blog entry is not so much about how to make a collage from paper scraps.  Collage
is an open-ended activity that gives children the opportunity exercise their fine motor skills as they grasp the paper pieces and the glue stick.  In addition, creating a collage invites children to be inventive (since there is no ”right” way to do it), to decide how to give order to random materials and to enjoy a tactile experience.  On their own, these are very important skills for children to develop in a way that is fun and that gives pleasurable results.  Diving a bit more deeply, I’d like to think of this blog entry as an exploration of how the seed of an idea transforms into a more fully developed curriculum, as different from but as much a part part of that original idea as an egg is to a butterfly.

It is not difficult to extend an art activity that stands alone as a rich learning experience into other areas of the curriculum.  Doing this enables children to represent their understanding in a variety of ways. Some ideas that were implemented in my classroom included:

  • telling the story using a felt board, so that children could practise retelling it independently, using materials they could examine, manipulate and put in order.
  • assembling a  puzzle so that children could use problem-solving skills as they remember how the story unfolds.
  • looking at the pictures in the book and telling part of the story, and then writing down their ideas to gain experience in using print in authentic ways.
  • colouring and cutting out pictures that represented each stage in the butterfly’s life cycle to aid them in relating what happened in the story to what happens in nature.
  • reading non-fiction books about butterflies, such as Monarch Butterfly by Gail
    Gibbons to explore different kinds of literature.
  • decorating the room with butterfly props, to capture children’s interest and encourage them to use questions to obtain information.

Once such an idea takes flight it is interesting to see where an exploration of butterflies might take us, what ideas might be inspired through the observation of children’s play with each of the different learning materials.  The same way that children can make a collage by giving order to random materials, educators can make a curriculum collage by giving order to ideas that may appear random at the outset. When we let ourselves see things in new ways, and allow creative thinking to drive our lesson planning from time to time, it is possible for a curriculum for young children to emerge in the end as a beautiful butterfly!

This entry was posted in Activities to Enjoy, Arts Books for Children, Curriculum in Early Childhood, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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