Where school children learn from caterpillars and butterflies

A group of children at a government senior primary school in Moodambail in Dakshina Kannada district, on the coast of Karnataka, have created a ‘butterfly effect’ in their lives by participating in a project that grows caterpillars into adult moths and butterflies and their growth is studied.

The students undertook the project as part of a nationwide program launched by the Navi Mumbai-based iNaturewatch Foundation, inviting schoolchildren to record the moth’s life cycle in a three-month project.

The foundation undertook the project in conjunction with the global program ‘National Moth Week’ (NMW), which begins every year on World Environment Day on 5 June. NMW is an annual event that brings moth lovers of all ages to participate in a celebration of the diversity of moths around the world.

Entomologist and iNaturewatch founder Dr. V Shubhalaxmi, NMW Country Coordinator Pritha Dey and biodiversity researcher Vijay Barve are the core team of iNaturewatch that introduced the program to children this year.

With this arrangement, iNaturewatch wants to give the children the opportunity to become ‘citizen scientists’.

With their dedicated work, these children of rural Moodambail have proved a point and have also received awards from the organization.

About 200 schools across the country participated in the project. The largest collection of caterpillars, more than 100, was bred by the students of the Moodambail school, who raised 40 of them into moths and butterflies in a month. The rest are in various stages of growth.

At the beginning of August, a team of 22 children from classes 6 to 8 was chosen to take up the project at the school. The school’s principal, Aravind Kudla, said he was drawn to a Facebook post about the caterpillar rearing project for children.

He contacted the coordinators of the national program and involved his own students in the project to develop their scientific curiosity.

The children collected more than 100 caterpillars from plants in their environment and brought them to school. The worms were kept in boxes with holes and the students started taking care of them by feeding them plants and cleaning the boxes regularly.

Kudla said about 60 caterpillars were successfully grown into adult moths by the students. Of these, by August 31, the date the project ended, 40 were adult moths and butterflies.

The students documented the plants from which the caterpillars were picked (host plants) and the changes in their life cycle through photos and notes. The school’s teachers, led by Principal Kudla, helped them capture the findings digitally and send them to iNaturewatch.

Kudla said the foundation had sent him a letter appreciating the children’s project and the great interest in breeding the caterpillars.

dr. V Shubalaxmi also sent certificates to the 22 students and handed them a field guide on butterflies.

Launched on June 5, the iNaturewatch project on caterpillars was run in several schools across the country until August 31. The foundation says it wanted the children to gain hands-on experience of observing metamorphosis in nature.

The moth caterpillars employ various defense strategies such as mimicry and camouflage to evade predators, some of which look like twigs, leaves, have warning colors, which the children can perceive beyond just references in textbooks.

Breeding caterpillars is a fun activity as they will be active and constantly changing shape and form. Just watching them and noting the changes as they observe their strange behavior will be captivating for the students, said Pritha Dey, one of the coordinators of the iNaturewatch team.

iNaturewatch hopes that the attendance and enthusiasm of the students this year will increase in the coming years. However, for the students of Moodambail school, the project is not over yet. They continue to raise caterpillars at school. An adult “Southern Birdwing” butterfly emerged from a box kept by a grade 6 student on Sept. 26, Kudla said.

And as the saying goes — just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly.

This story was published from a news agency feed with no text changes.

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