Science doesn’t always happen at ‘school time.’ Sometimes it happens when we see a rainbow, or we recycle our garbage, or we eat melting popsicles. Yesterday it happened as I walked into the garage and saw a large, fuzzy, black caterpillar in the middle of the floor.
I should probably preface this story with “I hate bugs. All kinds. No exception.” (except perhaps the occasional butterfly, ladybug, or firefly.) A few weeks ago at Target I saw one of those little bug cages in the dollar section and picked it up thinking, not too enthusiastically, that maybe we could put it to use.
I came inside, excited to tell the kids about my plan to capture the little guy and watch his life cycle. The kids got almost giddy at the plan, jumping up and down and talking about their new ‘pet.’ I looked on Google to figure out how we needed to care for him and it said we should get leaves from the tree we found him in. Since we found him in the garage, it was a no-go, but I told the kids to go to the backyard and find leaves for him to nibble.
The kids hurriedly got on their shoes and they all ran out the door and through the garage. They hadn’t been gone more than a few seconds when I heard the door open and C came walking back in with a look of dejection on her face. “Big E stepped on him,” she said.
“Wait? What??” I replied. They had literally just walked out. How did that happen?
Apparently in his enthusiasm, Big E ran through the garage and stepped right on the fuzzy mass without even realizing it. He followed C in a moment later to say that our new friend wasn’t looking so good. I went out to check, expecting to see squished caterpillar all over the garage floor, but instead he was laying on his back, all his little legs reaching to the sky. Afraid he had assumed a ‘death pose’ I warned the kids he might not live. That didn’t stop them from asking me to still catch him (using the ‘cooking pliers’ aka kitchen tongs) and naming him. So, I scooped him up, put him in the container with some leaves and twigs. The kids named him Shadow and immediately fell in love with him.
But Shadow didn’t seem to be doing so well. Every time I tried to right him, he would flop back over and stick his legs straight up. Soon the kids went from talking excitedly about Shadow to preparing themselves that they might have to bury him soon. They began planning his funeral, as he laid there listening to them. C said she wanted to be the one that buried him, and both her and Big E started tracking down items they could use as a marker for his grave.
But they continued to hold out hope that he would survive, and amazingly he has improved over the last 24 hours. He has started moving around and drinking the drops of water we have managed to get in his cage. He doesn’t seem to like his leaves, so we are trying some grass. So I guess we will continue with our experiment and see what happens. Hopefully no one else will step on him, poke him too hard, or leave his cage door open!