Monday, September 22, 2014


Change—New Paths—New Directions

While most of us realize that in order to grow we must step out of our comfort zone and explore new paths in life. However, recognizing the need to change directions and actually taking that first step are often at opposite ends of the spectrum. Many times we need a nudge to help us take that first step. For me, the nudge came in the form of a major health setback. I was forced to make choices that I preferred not to make. Yet, now that I can look back at the footprints I have left on that new path, I realize that my change in direction was a good choice to make.

Since the beginning of 2014 my blog posts have become less frequent. In fact, for several months I did not even add a new post. I apologize for the lack of new educational ideas and activities during this time. I have come to the conclusion that for the remainder of 2014, I must devote my time to my family, my health, and personal commitments. Trying to juggle all of those needs with maintaining this blog was not in the best interest of my family, my readers, and my health. I intend to return to this blog in 2015, hopefully renewed and revitalized. In that time, please remember that monthly activities and ideas that I posted in 2013 and early 2014 will still provide creative suggestions for making learning fun and memorable.

My final blog post for 2014 fits in perfectly with my decision to journey down a different path for a while. Mother Nature is on her own path to change with the turning of the seasons. While pictures, books, classroom decorations, and the like lead us to believe otherwise, the transition from one season to the next is anything but sudden. For weeks in our area summer has been fighting to maintain its hold on our region. In fact, during the first week of September we had record breaking temperatures. Our usually wet month of September has been dry. Yet, each morning, there is a glimmer of hope that the cooler autumn weather is winning the battle of the seasons. Spiders are capturing the dew each morning and now spinning the spectacular webs that are synonymous with fall. Moths and butterflies are hastily slurping the last of the nectar from the fading blossoms of summer. Caterpillars are beginning to stake their claim to their sleeping grounds to ride out their transition to new creations—moths and butterflies that will emerge in the spring.

Summer to autumn
Autumn to winter
Winter to Spring
Spring to Summer

The endless change of directions that nature takes is a reminder to all of us that to grow we must change, even if the change may not be as easy as we’d like.

As my final educational activity for 2014, I have chosen a craftivity centered on what I believe are the ultimate examples of change—butterflies. From the moment they hatch into a tiny caterpillar until the time comes to settle into a deep metamorphic slumber, butterflies are nature’s example of how trust in change can result in beautiful creations. When a butterfly lays her eggs, not knowing if her efforts will succeed, she trusts that the leaf, the branch, or the seedpod will provide for her young offspring. The caterpillars emerge and forage for weeks, trusting that food will be readily available. They grow and shed one casing after another, trusting nature to protect them during each transition. Then, the caterpillars trust nature once again to protect them as they spin their protective chrysalis and finally emerge a magnificent winged creature.

The activity below provides children with an opportunity to demonstrate how change (addition of paint to a crayon resist background) can yield beautiful results.
Beautiful Butterfly Batik*
Objective: Children will learn the traditional method of batik (hot wax resist), but use that information to create a variation of the method—crayon batik.

Crayons with fine points
Sturdy paper or cardstock
Diluted tempera or acrylic paint
Large bowl
Optional: butterfly template (provided)
Plain newsprint or screen mat for drying

Preparation: Prior to conducting the activity, pour a small amount of paint into a large bowl. Dilute the paint with water so that there is ample pigment in the water, but the paint is now the consistency of water. This will be used as the paint bath to dye the crayon artwork.

1. Show your children pictures of traditional batik (Hint: an internet search will provide some excellent examples).
2. Discuss the process for creating traditional batik.
A. Paint melted wax on fabric.
B. Dye the fabric a light color and allow to dry. The dye will resist the fabric that is coated in wax.
C. Add more melted wax. Repeat the dying process.
D. When the last dye has been added and dries, the wax is melted from the fabric, usually with a hot iron.
The result is a design with bold colors and lines that crisscross the colors where the wax cracked during the dying process.
3. Ask the children to use the crayons draw a block style picture of a butterfly or moth, encouraging the children to use large shapes with small spaces in between. It is important that the crayons completely cover each shape with a thick layer of wax.
4. Fold and crinkle the paper into a ball.
5. Unfold the paper and briefly dip it into the bowl of diluted paint. (Hint: younger children may need to be reminded that if their artwork is allowed to remain in the paint too long, the paper fibers may become weak and tear.)
6. Place the artwork on a flat surface to dry.

The faux batik butterfly artwork is a combination of different mediums that can represent the change of the seasons. When the children look at their completed artwork, ask them to find the small lines of paint that worked their way into the blocks of crayon wax. Explain that these lines can represent the days where our seasons are a mixture of two seasons—for example, very hot days in September that begin chilly with a heavy dew coating the windows and plants.

*I originally created this activity for a wonderful web site that focuses on teaching children the wonders of nature and how butterflies are wonderful ambassadors for nature’s ability to grow and change. Please check out their site for more activities and information about butterflies.

Kids Butterfly dot Org