For the past three years we have had the opportunity to participate in Cat'n Around Catskill.
Originally when our design was submitted our idea was to do Ten Little Caterpillar, inspired by the book and the ten year anniversary of the Cats on Main Street.
As we worked on the cat, our idea began to change. We had many discussions about butterflies and
the children were immersed in games, stories, songs and art about butterflies.
In the art studio they looked at many different species of butterflies and began to draw out their own butterflies.
Again, we had more conversations about what butterflies we like best, and what their pictures of butterflies represent. We also learned lots about butterflies such as, they taste a flower with their feet, smell with their antenna and drink with their long proboscis tongue.
The drawings created by the children were very intricate and involved, so we began to think about how that would translate on the cat as they painted. We tried a couple different versions, and in addition to discovering the process we would use to make our butterflies, we also discovered that almost every child's favorite butterfly was the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch butterfly is fascinating and the children were very interested in their migration pattern. The Monarch will fly from North America to Mexico and roost in the Oyamel Tree, an ancient Fir tree in Mexico. They will stay their until the Spring then head back and lay an egg in Texas or Oklahoma, then that butterfly will head North only living for a couple week, lay an egg, and then the next will fly North again only living a couple weeks, their egg will transform and travel North again, and their final egg will be the butterfly to live eight months and travel down to Mexico again. The amazing thing that when these 4 different generations travel North, they follow and stop at almost the exact places their predecessor stopped on the way to Mexico. It is an incredible cycle that is sadly suffering from the diminishing source of Milkweed, as well as the deforestation in Mexico.With further discussion with the children, it was decided that our cat would be focused on Monarch Butterflies. One of the reasons for this decision was that the children became very passionate about saving the Monarchs. When I was teaching about Monarchs I let them know that the population is at risk because the Monarch Caterpillar only eats one food, Milkweed. Children amaze me, their innocent passion about our world is so powerful. When a four year tells you not to cut down your Milkweed to save the Monarchs, it has a gravity that really sends the message home.
Trying out different painting processes
In the end the children had the most success painting their Monarchs by using their hand prints and then adding the details after. Below you can see our inspiration wall for our project and the process we took to come up with our idea for the cat.
We also had the opportunity to have Kate Boyer visit our school with her wonderful educational performance of Monarch Magic, which is a nature awareness performance with soft sculpture and a story through song about the amazing travels and life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. Her link is highlighted in the title above.
The incredible Oyamel Fir Tree with Monarchs roosting created by Kate
Chrysalis and a Milkweed plant
The children finding a Monarch that will begin it's migration
The Chrysalis being hung on the Milkweed and then the caterpillar emerging from its cocoon.
Kate performing with her guitar and pausing to show the children what an actual chrysalis looks like and a butterfly as it emerges from the chrysalis.
Our nature table was even visited by butterflies and Milkweed.
Kate was kind enough to lend us her Oyamel tree and props and the children enjoyed playing with them as well as countless adventures into the Oyamel tree to play peek-a-boo.
Exploring and making butterfly homes with blocks.
Soaring around like a butterfly.
And of course we had to become Monarchs as well.
Now we come back to the painting of our cat. We started with different variations of gold paint, and the children all had a chance to work together to apply three coats
Our next step was to have the older students add their hand print, and our younger students were to do the ten little caterpillars.
Our cat sitting with our inspiration board as our process begins to move along.
Adding their detail and personal charm to each butterfly.
Below are our very focused Caterpillar painters
Another picture mid-process
And finally we had one of our Art and Soul Alumni paint the face, one of the perks when your mama owns the school:)
I have loved doing this project with my students for the past three years, but this cat holds a special place in my heart because of the love and devotion the children developed in learning about Monarchs and wanting to help them survive.
It is such a sweet cat, and if you would like to see it yourself, you can find it just before Canal Street on Main Street. Special thanks to The Heart of Catskill for sponsoring us, Tina for the awesome name and all that she does, and Kate Boyer for volunteering her time and talent with her Monarch Magic performance and art, and of course the fabulous students of Art and Soul Preschool, I am so proud of you!