In the summer, we raised monarch caterpillars as we usually do. One day, Deb noticed one of the boys sitting in front of the cage in which our 5 caterpillars were now hanging from the top, having turned into chrysalises. He sat there, staring at the chrysalises, which of course were not moving or doing anything, for several long minutes. Deb finally went over to him and asked him what he was doing.
“I can’t figure out,” he said in a voice that told her he’d been thinking hard about this. “How do the butterflies make the new skin inside there?” He indicated the shed skin lying on the bottom of the cage. Days before, the class had watched raptly as the hanging caterpillars changed into chrysalises, their striped skin gradually working its way up to the top as their bodies turned into the green chrysalises from the bottom up. When the old skin finally was just a wrinkled little bit at the top, it suddenly plopped off and hit the bottom of the cage, causing the children to gasp. (It looks like their head is coming off, because the old skin around the antennae is still there. If you haven’t seen this process in real life, check it out on YouTube. It’s amazing!)
So, this boy was pondering–for a long time, especially by preschool boy standards–the question of how the butterflies can emerge with skin when they discarded their skin as they turned into chrysalises. A very good question indeed!