Woolly Bear Zombies or
Science in a Relaxed Home School
My kids love science, they just don’t know it.
If you were to ask them if they like science they would tell you a flat out NO. It is so funny to me because we do so many fun experiments but the kids do not consider it science.
Their latest science activity was collecting Woolly Bear caterpillars to see if they would form cocoons. My 13yo son had found a free aquarium and decided he would use it to collect creatures from outside and put them in it.
1st science activity’s related to this topic?
- Ask a question
- Do background research
- Construct a hypothesis.
He had done the first 3 steps in the Scientific Method without even knowing it.
1. First he asked a question, “Can I have Woolly Bear caterpillars live and form cocoons in my terrarium?”
2. Second he did some research by looking up what a Woolly Bear caterpillar eats and how often. He also looked up what else they needed to live.
3. From these 2 points above he constructed a hypothesis. His hypothesis was, “I believe that Woolly Bear caterpillars can live in my terrarium. But there are things I must do. If I feed them fresh leaves everyday and moisten the terrarium everyday they should live and form cocoons.”
At any point in time did he verbalize this hypothesis? NOPE
The quote marks above are for example only. We did talk about his project a lot but he never thought of it as science work. He is an average 13yo boy and just did these thing without even knowing he was working through the scientific method.
What are the next steps of the Scientific Method and did he continue to work through them?
Here they are:
- Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment.
- Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion.
- Communicate Your Results.
So, yes, he continued with the steps of the scientific method.
4. He collected a square of sod to place in the bottom of the terrarium. Next he started collecting Woolly Bear caterpillars and placing them in the terrarium. He added the leaves that they like along with some moisture.
We watched as they moved and lived and had a great time in the terrarium. We had a great time and had so much watching them just live in there. The terrarium was right in the dining room so conversations at the dinner table were always about those fuzzy guys.
Each day he added some new leaves and moistened the terrarium, except when he forgot… 😉 They ate and ate each day. He continued to learn more about them through books and online.
He found out they need sticks to climb up on in order to hang and form cocoons from. He collected sticks and placed them in various spots in the terrarium. He now had 7 or 8 caterpillars but no cocoons.
5. The next step of the scientific process started to take place. Honestly, at this point it was starting to look like the caterpillars were just going to die and well that would be that. His 17yo sister decided the caterpillars were dead and planted some corn seeds in the terrarium sod. We all watched as the corn grew and the caterpillars died. The corn grew to about 10 inches tall and then it decided to die also. The experiment seemed like a flop.
We talked about how maybe he had watered it too much or had forgotten to feed them too many times. Everyone had an opinion…
Then one day his 17yo sister saw movement. Under the ground at the edge of the glass wall there was a Woolly Bear alive.
My 13yo son said, “It’s the Woolly Bear Zombie Apocalypse!”
6. Communicate your results. Boy did he do that. Everyone who would listen he would tell them about how he had made this terrarium and thought for sure all the Woolly Bears had died and then… had come back to life. Well at least 2 of them.
These little guys are still alive, not sure how or why but they are.
Science is lifelong learning in real life not from a textbook or a teacher but what a kid sees that he or she wants to know more about. Those are the experiences the child will remember, that is true science.
Do I use textbooks for science, YUP, but not how they are written, we tweak them to fit our own way of learning. More on that another time…