"Woolly bears" aren't sheep or bears. They are caterpillars credited in folklore for their weather predictions. A true woolly bear is a black-brown-black caterpillar with dense, hairy spikes. When you see one, you want to dig out your knitting needles and go to the nearest specialty yarn store with your Visa or Mastercard.
Sighting a woolly bear with a wide brown center section is supposed to predict an easy winter. A woolly bear with a thin center "sweater" of brown spikes predicts a harsh weather in folklore. This splendid caterpillar is the larva of the Isabella tiger moth, which is mostly golden yellow and not a fashion show-stopper.
Familiar since Colonial times as the "Woolly Bear," the caterpillar is often seen crossing roads and paths on warm days in late fall. According to superstition, the amount of black in the caterpillar's bristle coating forecasts the severity of the coming winter. Actually, the coloration indicates how near the caterpillar is to full growth before autumn weather stimulates it to seek a winter shelter.
Serendipity brought a hairy black caterpillar to the school playground the day before our art class about fall leaves and acorns. When it curled up we could see red bands between the black "hairy" segments. The immediacy of the children's experience with the caterpillar added magic to our already purdy darn good project called, "What's Under the Leaves?"
The caterpillar wandered across the playground during our picnic lunch. It was determined to go east no matter how we gently redirected it to keep it from going under the fence and into the car lane to be smashed by an oncoming garbage truck.
Kids started cheering, "GO, caterpillar, GO!" We finally got it safely into the grass, and the children went back to their PB&J sandwiches and juice boxes.
I found black chenille stems, also known as pipe cleaners, in the cupboard. They made nice caterpillars, but won't turn into giant leopard moths.
Techniques include cutting, rubbings, painting, drawing, folding, and rolling.
Materials include liquid watercolors and salt, glitter temperas, metallic Sharpie, crayons, various papers, glue sticks.(age seven)
I think this is a giant leopard moth. I took the photo in Highland Park, Texas, a year or so ago.
This is my favorite type of art project. Lots of skills, lots of materials, lots of brainstorming, and creating symbolic representations in both two and three dimension. Add a connection to nature that makes kids better observers, and I'm thrilled.
© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder