This blog was inspired by a luna moth. A child accidentally stepped on it on the way into school, injuring it’s wing. It was left on the concrete step, trying unsuccessfully to fly when a colleague alerted me to it’s plight. I put it in a plastic bin and brought it into my classroom. As the children arrived that morning, they were naturally drawn to the incredibly beautiful creature. It seemed unable to move at this point, and there was a certain heaviness in the room as the children began to understand that the moth was injured and could not fly. Plans were made to make the moth comfortable. We added sticks, grass, leaves and water to the container. The children held vigil by the container, noticing the beautiful green wings and symmetrical designs. One of the students made an observational drawing of the moth. I explained to the children that the moth could not survive if he could not fly. We began to move into our morning routine.
We have a classroom naturalist. One child who is particularly in tune with the natural world; a scientist. He was enthralled with the moth and stayed by the container for most of the morning. It was he who noticed that the moth seemed to be getting stronger. I was skeptical, but agreed to take to container outside, just in case the moth regained the ability to fly. An hour passed, and our classroom routine was in full swing. Our naturalist checked on the moth at regular intervals, and eventually called out to me from the outdoor courtyard. When I went outside, the moth was perched on his hand. I arrived just in time to see it fly away. I’m not sure who was more surprised —— me or the young naturalist, but we both knew that we had witnessed a sacred moment.
Several months have passed since we found the Luna moth. Curriculum has been planned and delivered, special events have been organized and facilitated. We have continued to grow and learn in the classroom. We have arrived at the end of the school year, a busy, frenetic time in schools everywhere. My resident naturalist has been in my classroom for three years. I asked him to reflect on the most meaningful experiences he has had during our time together and with no hesitation at all he said, “the Luna moth.”
John Dewey writes about the power of experience in education. Young children cannot understand what they have not experienced. Meaningful learning occurs in a social context at the intersect of disciplined inquiry, the construction of knowledge and the development of relationships. The Luna moth brought out all of these elements, as well as a sense of wonder and reverence for nature that serves to make us all the more human.