Who says science and story time can’t go hand-in-hand? We’re thrilled to announce our new series — Storybook STEAM. Each month, we’ll feature a storybook and corresponding Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math project that’s perfect for preschoolers or elementary-school aged kids. 

We’re kicking things off with a beloved children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s one of those books that just never seems to get old, no matter how many times you read it. Beautifully illustrated, it tells the tale of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly (after eating it’s way through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle… well, you get the idea!).

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

Just like the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, you can transform colors using chromatography. Chromatography is the scientific term for separating mixtures. This fun Butterfly Chromatography experiment doubles as an afternoon art project. Don’t forget to post pics of your butterfly projects because we’d LOVE to see them. Tag us and use the hashtag #CoolStorybookSTEAM.

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

Storybook STEAM: Butterfly Chromatography

MATERIALS

Coffee Filter (we used a mini filter and made mini butterflies — but you can use any size!)
Markers (Crayola and Mr. Sketch work well)
Jars
Water
Pipe Cleaners
Beads

INSTRUCTIONS

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly ChromatographyStorybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

STEP ONE: Using markers, draw a circle around the center of the coffee filter. (Spoiler alert: black and brown make the most interesting separations!) Start with just one color ring on the filter so you can see the full separation before you repeat the experiment and add additional colors or patterns.

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

STEP TWO: Fold your filter into quarters.

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

STEP THREE: Fill your jar with water. Dip the pointed edge of your filter into the water. It should just barely touch the water. Allow the water to seep up through the marker and watch the colors separate. (Good time to practice patience…)

STEP FOUR: Remove the filter from the water and let it dry.

STEP FIVE: Fold the filter into an accordion fan. Pinch in the middle and secure with a pipe cleaner.

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

STEP SIX: Bend ends of pipe cleaner into antennae.  Add beads. Enjoy!

Storybook STEAM: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterfly Chromatography

See Butterflies in Baltimore

Ladew Topiary Gardens: Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland has an awesome butterfly house. The first of its kind in the region, the Butterfly House showcases native plants and the native butterflies and caterpillars that depend on them for food and shelter. It provides an up-close, educational experience on the natural history and life cycle of several butterfly species. They are hosting a a special Butterfly Family Nature Explorers program on August 19th and 20th. VISIT THEIR WEBSITE

Irvine Nature Center: Smaller than Ladew’s but just as (cool), Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills is home to another area butterfly house. Enthusiasts of all ages can get an up close look at the habitat and life cycle of Maryland’s native butterflies, including the monarch,  swallowtail and painted lady. Join them August 20th – 25th for Moth Week when they’ll have extended Butterfly House hours. VISIT THEIR WEBSITE

Oregon Ridge Nature Center: Oregon Ridge Nature Center is hosting their very own “Very Hungry Caterpillar” adventure on August 19th and 20th. Hear the story and then, explore the park to find real live caterpillars! VISIT THEIR WEBSITE

 

Photos by Laura Black