Praying Mantises! A Life Cycle In Action – The Wonder Of Metamorphosis!

Dr. Montessori observed children observing and taking care of insects and small animals.  She believed in introducing  biology (the scientific study of living things) to children as they are fascinated and so interested in the metamorphosis and the care of other living things.  Just as Dr. Montessori’s philosophy was based on careful and patient observation of children, she believed young children should be directed in a way to discover for themselves the joys of just observing plants and animals.  She also believed that imagination was fundamental to humanity, “Consciousness comes into being as a flaming ball of imagination,” and felt observing the wonders of the natural world facilitates this process.


As always, we prepare the environment for the child.
We had ordered the Praying Mantis egg case and had been waiting for the nymphs to hatch.

We were rewarded on Sunday evening and again Wednesday morning with many, many praying mantisis coming out of the hardened egg case.


We were all fascinated!
The children then became aware of how to sustain these little creatures, they hunted down little insects and helped to put them in the enclosure.


After a few days we decided to let some go (we had many- many more than expected!) out in the gardens.


We thanked them and sang a little song to say goodbye.
The next day, more hatched from the egg case, what a surprise!
The goal is to grow one or two into adulthood so the children can observe the metamorphosis (except for being able to watch the live egg case being formed).

The metamorphoses of insects and the care which mothers bestow upon their offspring are objects of patient observation on the part of children, and they often give rise to an interest that surprises us.”  They become like… “a miniature scientist.”  (The Discovery of the Child, pg. 71, 1967)

Color wheel and color mixing

This week in science we have introduced the color wheel. The children were able to make a color wheel independently by following visual cues. We used paper plates divided into six separate spaces with the three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and secondary colors (orange, green and purple) written in that color on the plate. This allows non-readers to understand what color goes in that spot.


We had prepared clippings from newspaper ads in the six colors in separate bowls and placed them on the table. One the table was a glue stick and a pencil. The children wrote their names on the back, applied the glue stick and then picked out a paper to glue on.


Here is a finished product. The child then is able to see the different colors of the color wheel. This is a great work for younger children.

As an extension of the color wheel, we presented color mixing to the extended day children. Here the child is able to mix drops of the three primary colors to make their own wheel.


The child first applies the drops of red to the wheel. This can be a tricky process and requires more developed fine motor skills. The children have practiced using a dropper with other works in the classroom. The child proceeds to use the other colors and drop the colored water right on the little dot. Another skill is taking the top on and putting it back on the bottle.


Once the drops are on, a toothpick is used to mix up the colors. This way they make the desired secondary colors. After each mix, the child wipes it on the sponge to get rid of the color before mixing a new one.


After this process is completed, the child places their paper towel down on the colored water. They gasp as they see what happens!


A beautiful color wheel! (It is even better once it has dried.)
One child did two in a row and said she wants to do this in her house!

A FUN visit (with various vertebrates!)- the Critter Guy!


We have finished our study of vertebrates and are now in the process of comparing these animals. We wanted to give the children yet another concrete experience with the animals so we invited our friend Paul to come for a visit with his animals! (Yes, he has a tree frog in his hand.) Paul is the prefect blend of fact and humor and it is at the right level! Many children knew answers and were excited to share their knowledge of the vertebrates! The only type Paul did not bring along was the fish- we have two in the classroom anyway.

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We learned the tree frog uses suction on his or her feet to stick to things. They can hold you! Also, the skin was not wet as it appears. Some children knew amphibians start in the water and once they develop lungs, may move to land. This was our lone amphibian, the children were thrilled!

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A pair of doves (Mr. and Mrs. Dove) came out to see us. The children were thrilled to see both of them and touch the soft feathers. We talked about the charactistics of birds and most children were able to recall that they laid eggs and had feathers! When put away, we could hear Mr. Dove cooing to Mrs. Dove and then what seemed like a giggle. The children liked to listen for these noises throughout the presentation!

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The Blue Tongued Skink was amazing and was one of two reptiles to visit. One child immediately knew what it was (as we had made our reptile book and this was one of the creatures…) and proceeded to tell us a little about it! It was great to see this knowledge carry over! We learned the Skink uses his tongue to smell and can go about 6-7 steps before stopping to take a break. Many children talked about camouflage and how it protects itself from predators. The children were amused to feel the Skink and learn it feels like a corn cob!

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The other reptile to visit us was the Corn Snake. This snake is from Florida and hangs off of corn stalks, waiting for mice! The children remembered snakes lay eggs and have scales but not like fish! We made snake bracelets and one teacher let the snake wrap around her neck!


Speaking of mice, we had one visit. The children remembered this was a mammal but also pointed out to Paul that HE was a mammal too!


We played a trick on a teacher and said we didn’t know where the mouse went! This child thought it was quite funny!


Paul then let the children hold a bunch of seven day old mice! They could not stop laughing! We learned that in three more days, these mice will open their eyes. When they are 18 days old, they no longer need “mice milk” and at 30 days they can have their own babies! Whew!


The other mammal was a Chinchilla. This creature was SO soft! There is nothing quite like it which explains why it is endangered! The Chinchillas live in the Andes mountains in South America. All of the children touched this little guy, it was quite irresistible!


We had a wonderful morning! Having these animals visit helped the children to understand the different types of vertebrates. Paul also reminded them to never touch an animal in the wild or even one you don’t know (such as someone else’s cat or dog). A big THANK YOU to Paul!

Planting and watering peas!

With the hot weather we decided to plant peas. The peas can take a little cold and come up quickly! First, all of the children had a chance to plant a few seeds in their garden.


Within a week they had popped up! This was very satisfying to see!


The children have all requested to water the new peas. This is another way they learn to care for their environment and it helps them to learn how food grows. We are excited to eat the peas when they are ready!

Vertebrate Classification

We have now completed the study of the five types of vertebrates. The children have explored the different types and were able to have a concrete experience with an animal in each category. For the mammal we had a gentle therapy dog come in for a visit. For the fish category we have a fish in our classroom (and now a new BIG one!) and we also purchased one from the fish market so the children could see the laterals line/gills etc up close. We had a gecko visit for the reptiles and African water frogs for the amphibians. The owl visit from the science center was a wonderful way to see a bird up close. (Please see previous posts!)

We wanted to compare these five types of vertebrates. The children were able to use small figures and categorize them into the different types.


It is slightly confusing to understand that all of these creatures have some common features. They ALL have backbones. So to help this understanding we had an example of an invertebrate: the common garden worm!


Right now digging up worms is a popular activity so we brought some into the classroom.


Because the children care for these creatures, they wanted to make sure they were not dried up and wanted to add water. To make sure it was not a mud bath, we let them add 5 drops of water each. This was fun because they also were able to use the small eye dropper!


A chemical reaction- shining pennies

Can of pennies

A chemical reaction!
We have been engaged in a scientific experiment over the last few days.
The children have been shining pennies by using lemon juice and salt.

Cleaning pennies

The children start by choosing a dull penny. They put it on the plate and rub the mixture of lemon juice and salt on the penny with a cotton swab. Once shiny, they rinse it off in the water and pat dry. They then take it and put the penny in the shiny container.

Fifth Vertebrate – Amphibians

We have studied the other four types of vertebrates (mammals, fish, birds and reptiles) and are now on our last one- amphibians.

About Amphibians Book

We read the children a book which helped to explain about the types and characteristics of amphibians.

Amphibian cards

Some of the children have chosen to make a “parts of the frog” book. These books show the part colored in which isolates the part. Some can write the words on their own and others need help. They thought it was funny when “tail” came up but nothing was colored in. This gave us an opportunity to talk again about how the frogs loose their tail as they progress in their life cycle.


We had a visit from our friend “big” Sophia (a fifth grader) who brought her African Dwarf Water Frogs in to see us. This was so great, the children loved having a concrete experience of a real animal. Sophia showed us how she feeds her frogs.


We also made frog prints. We gave a lesson to the afternoon children about print making and decided the morning children might like to make frog prints.


They are really cute!


The children also matched cards with various types of amphibians.


Reptiles – a focus on snakes

We had been studying reptiles complete with a visit from the gecko and one week we focused on snakes. For this we read a book about snakes and showed the children a snake skin. This was another opportunity to handle something fragile.

Snake skin

We extended this into the practical life area where we had a snake cutting work. Here the children can color the snake and then cut around in a circle.

Snake cut out

In art we decided to glue a snake mosiac which was quite popular with the children. Here they used different dried beans and put them in a strip of glue shaped like a snake.

Making a snake out of glue

Titi the Gecko


We had a visit from a Gecko today as we are studying reptiles. He was very shy and wanted to hide but made an occasional appearance and quite an impression on the children. We were happy to be able to borrow him as we want to make sure the children have a concrete experience with what we are studying.

Lizard Book

Some of the afternoon children decided to make a parts of the lizard book. They enjoy looking at their pictures and some are now writing the words themselves. Thank you to our friend who allowed us to bring his Gecko to our school today!!

Dissection of the Owl Pellets

If you scroll down you will see we have been studying our third vertebrate, birds. We had an owl visit and the extended day children visited the Leslie Science and Nature Center. On our visit we were given some owl pellets to examine once back at school. Although we had read about owl pellets in a book, we always try to provide concrete, hands on experiences for the children.

Hands with glove on

We all put gloves on.


We then began taking apart the pellets. We found so many bones! Several teeny jaw bones with teeny teeth. We all discussed what animal this owl could have eaten.

Mouse bones

Today we had the mouse bones on display in a glass case with a magnified clear top so the morning children could see the bones. This was a great experience!