STEM Challenge: Longest Paper Chain

Our class really enjoyed our STEM challenge today.  Everyone did such a great job listening to and communicating with their partners in order to work as a team!  Each pair of students were given only ONE piece of construction paper, a glue stick, and two pairs of scissors.  They were asked to work together to create the longest paper chain in just 30 minutes.  Afterwards we discussed our strategies and lined them up to see which chains were the longest.  Some groups decided to cut thinner links or longer pieces of paper. In some groups each member had a job (cutting or gluing) and in other groups they worked on both things at the same time.  One group tried cutting short chains at first, but then realized this wasn’t helping them create long chains very quickly, so they revised their strategy.  The red and green chains were quite close so they tied for the longest chain.

Adult Butterflies and Our Theories About Our Chrysalises

This morning we discussed a problem we were having.  Our butterflies haven’t emerged from their chrysalises yet, but the butterflies in the other grade 2 classrooms have already emerged.  We also noticed that the colour of the chrysalises have changed from light gray to black.  Even though the chrysalises are supposed to get darker before the butterflies emerge, this is usually because they are becoming more transparent (clear) and we can see their dark wings.  Our chrysalises look opaque (not clear), and they also look smaller than we remember.

Based on these clues, we think our butterflies will not emerge from their chrysalises.  Mrs. Ho has never had this happen before!  We followed the same steps as she did in previous years, which were also the same steps as the other classes.  So what happened to our pupae?  Mrs. Ho asked us to brainstorm our ideas.  We were good scientists and came up with several theories:

  • Maybe they didn’t eat enough food
  • Maybe they ate too much food
  • Maybe something happened to the food
  • Maybe they got hungry in the chrysalises
  • Maybe our room was too cold
  • Maybe there’s not enough nature
  • Maybe it’s something to do with the air
  • The weather has been cooler this year than previous years, which might affect the temperature or climate of the room.
  • Our room is on the other side of the hallway from the other grade 2 classrooms so maybe there’s some small difference in the environment of our room that we might not even notice
  • Maybe our room doesn’t have enough humidity (water in the air) and was too dry.
  • We know butterflies migrate to warmer places when they get too cold. Maybe it was because of where the sun was. Maybe our room didn’t get enough sun and wasn’t warm enough.
  • Maybe they got sick

Even though our pupae couldn’t make it to the next stage of the life cycle, we had a great time raising them from larva to pupa.  We got to observe other Painted Lady Butterflies as adults and help release them back into the wild.

Mrs. Trotti’s class had one more chrysalis that hasn’t emerged yet.  It’s still a gray colour for now.  We’re going to keep it in our room and see if it will emerge for us.  We have come up with these changes to hopefully help it have a better chance of survival:

  • Move it closer to the window so it will get more warmth from the sun
  • Keep the shutters open to let in more light (usually we close one half of the shutters because it bothers us when people knock on our window during recess and look in, and we also like making sure the word wall is visible – but we will be patient with this to make our classroom the best environment for this pupa!)
  • Misting it with water every day in case our classroom isn’t humid enough