Monday, October 11, 2010


A few weeks ago, my third grader stopped in her tracks, flung her arms far apart, and breathed deeply. Nonplussed, I stopped and asked her what she was doing.

“Remembering the way summer smells,” she said.

I sniffed the air tentatively, but all I could really smell was car exhaust. We were in the middle of a plaza parking lot, after all.

I had forgotten this little scenario until this morning, when we awakened to temperatures in the 40s. As we waited for the school bus, my daughter raised her chin into the wind and announced that it now smelled like fall. “But I still remember how summer smells,” she said.

We live in New England, where summers are fleeting and – for me, anyway – fall arrives much too quickly. The leaves are changing color, pumpkins have appeared on doorsteps, and I can’t seem to keep my hands off a local farm’s seasonal cider donuts. Like spring, autumn seems to be a season when transformations are most noticeable. Plants go dormant, hornet colonies die off, and caterpillars begin constructing chrysalids. The world around us changes continuously via weather, seasons, human-induced development, natural disasters, and so forth. Many examples of transformation are all around us all the time, if we slow down to look.

The concept of metamorphosis has a long and rich tradition. Classic horror stories and legends depict werewolves, vampires, and various types of shapeshifters, all capable of transforming themselves into other guises. Around the year 8 A.D., Ovid published The Metamorphosis, which describes various tales of transformation. Although Ovid’s work is still widely read in academic circles, most people are more familiar with Kafka’s Metamorphosis story of Gregor Samsa, a hardworking salesman who inexplicably awakens one morning as a large insect. While his physical transformation is pronounced, his family too undergoes a metamorphosis in the story, prompting the reader to ask “what is human?”

Metamorphosis is most often demonstrated in the classroom via the lifecycles of various creatures, such as mealworms, butterflies, and frogs. The ability to view these species’ dramatic changes in a relatively short period of time is a fabulous way to illustrate the concept of transformation to students. My picks this week focus on some aspect of metamorphosis, whether it occurs in life science, literature, visual art, or elsewhere. I will be featuring many more resources for all ages throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please be sure to check in to view them.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Subjects: Literature, Writing
Grade: 9-10
In this lesson, students analyze the many interrelated literary elements and universal themes in Kafka’s seminal short story. Students are asked to delve much deeper into the story’s symbolism beyond Gregor’s literal transformation into a bug as they examine the effects of society, family, stress, and environment on the characters. This lesson is offered by LEARN NC, a program of UNC Chapel Hill School of Education that provides lesson plans, professional development, and other resources to support teachers. The lesson is aligned to North Carolina state standards.

Claymation Metamorphosis
Subjects: Art, Life science
Grade: 5-12
Like Gumby, but educational! This lesson provides an introduction to the basics of Claymation and media production using a familiar scientific theme — the metamorphosis of a butterfly. This lesson is produced by Blick Art Materials, an art supply company that also offers lesson plans and video workshops for teachers. The lesson is aligned to national standards.

How a Caterpillar Becomes a Butterfly
Subjects: Life science
Grade: K-1
This activity introduces young students to the life cycle of a butterfly. Students role play and draw the various stages that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. Students also listen to and discuss Eric Carle’s classic book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This lesson is offered by the Educators Reference Desk, a repository of lesson plans, resource guides, and AskERIC Q&A archives from the Information Institute of Syracuse at Syracuse University.

~Joann's Picks - 10/7/2010~


  1. Wonderful lessons to capitalize on the changing seasons and the new smells of the season :)

  2. Thanks! Please remember to check out our Twitter and FB pages for more lessons and resources on transformations of all kinds throughout the week!


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