We have caterpillars! The eggs that we watched a Black Swallowtail butterfly lay in the garden a few days ago have hatched and the little caterpillars have begun eating the leaves. Hopefully our weather will stay mild and be better suited to their growth than last year's hot summer. If so, within a couple weeks we should have a few big caterpillars to catch so we can watch them transform!

...And, we finally got our first taste out of our garden!  There were lots of beautiful snap peas ready for us to pick today!  We learned how to tell if the pod is ready to be picked (fat, not skinny!), and we learned the best way to pick the peas so that the whole plant doesn't come with!  None of the peas actually made it to the house, though...they were just to delicious to save! :)
     Our cold, wet spring has put us a few weeks behind, but we finally got MOST of our daycare garden planted today and had lots of fun doing it!  We still have a few things to add over the next couple of days because I wanted to  make sure those that weren't here today can get in on this too.  Today we planted carrots, peas, green beans, corn, sunflowers, and some tomato plants.  We still hope to get in our lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, a couple more tomato plants, and some potatoes in the next couple of days.
I have had so much fun learning right along with the kids!  This will be our first year trying potatoes, so we'll see how that goes and what we learn from that! :)
I also set out a box of dirt with some of last year's leftover seeds and gardening tools for the kids to play around with and they really enjoyed that, especially after we had finished the "real" planting.
Hopefully the forecasted rain will help out our new garden and we will get some warm weather to help it grow, too.  I really love watching the kids see their seeds grow and getting to harvest their vegetables, too!
Our butterfly hatched
    I walked past our caterpillar jar early this morning and noticed that I could see the black wings and yellow spots through our chrysalis, so I knew it wouldn't be long before our butterfly made it's appearance.  I told the kids we should make sure to check on it this morning, hoping to show them what I had seen, but by the time we all got out there the butterfly had already come out!  We must have just barely missed it though, because it's wings were still all folded and wrinkled, so it was fun for the kids to be able to see that.

The kids were really excited and asked great questions, like "What will the butterflly eat?" and "When is it going to fly?"  So, we watched it pump up and stretch out its wings, and we found its "proboscis" and talked about how that rolls out to become like a straw that it drinks flower nectar through.  Once we had all had a chance to get a good look at it,
...I carefully moved the stick that the butterfly was clinging to out of the glass jar and into the mesh butterfly house.  Since I have just a small group here today, I am hoping that we can safely keep it in the mesh house until tomorrow when a few more of the kids will have a chance to see it, and then set it free.
We gathered up a few flowers and orange slices and put them in  the butterfly house, so there will be some nectar available in case our butterfly gets hungry before tomorrow.
Then, hopefully she will fly out to our garden and lay her eggs on our Angelica plants so we can find them later and witness the full life cycle!
    This morning we got to head out to our garden to gather some snap peas for our lunch today and here is what we found!  A whole bowl full of peas, and our very first ripe cherry tomato!  (Don't those beautiful, mangled peas just look like they were excitedly picked by little hands?!)  :)  And, I am very happy to report that a couple of the kids ate more of the fresh peas as we were picking than they added to the bowl!
    We have been anxiously watching the tiny caterpillars in the garden get bigger and bigger!  I told the kids we had to wait to catch one until they were almost big enough to make a cocoon (so we wouldn't have to try to keep giving them fresh leaves every day for weeks!).  So, when they all spotted a "really big one!" on their way into the house this morning, they knew today was the day! :) 
The kids have decided to name him "Ted."  :) Ted is a black swallowtail caterpillar and eats plants like Dill, Queen Anne's Lace, and Angelica (which is the plant we have).  Hopefully we will get to see the whole process of him turning into a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly!  Since we have watched a caterpillar up close for several summers in a row now and know what is coming, we are excited to watch what happens next!
    One of the kids also brought a different kind of caterpillar to show us today.  It was one I was not familiar with, but I have found an excellent website for identifying caterpillar species.  In case any of you ever need to identify a caterpillar for your little bug lover, here is the link:  discoverlife.org.  It is so fun when they understand that the caterpillars are going to turn into something else, and it is really fun to be able to show them what it will look like.  I will add this link to the links on my Resources page, too so it will be easy to find when you need it.  ; )
Preschool garden
    Today we planted our garden for the year!  We planted lettuce, carrots, green beans, peas, sweet corn, sunflowers, and tomato plants.  The kids really enjoyed finally getting to plant the seeds they have been so excited about!  They dug, planted, covered, and watered and had fun trying to figure out what the next type of seed would grow into.

    There is so much to be learned from participating in the process of a vegetable garden from start to finish!  In planting, caring for, and harvesting from our own vegetable garden this summer, we will learn about the science of raising plants - what they need to grow, parts of a plant, that the root and stem grow out of the seeds we planted, how tall sunflowers can grow, and even that some plants have a flower that, in time, is replaced by food!  When we planted our garden today, there were math skills involved as we counted out our seeds, counted how many rows we had planted, how many kinds of vegetables we will grow,
graphed our favorite vegetables, and had to pay attention to the depth and spacing of our seeds, too.  Having a garden is also a great hands-on lesson on health and nutrition when we harvest the vegetables we have now planted as seeds, and then get to eat them! 
The kids have been waiting and it is finally time to put in our vegetable garden for the summer!  The actual planting will happen on Wednesday, but today we started getting ready by talking about what kinds of seeds we want to plant, what kinds of vegetables we want to grow, and making a seed-to-flower picture.
We started by finger painting some bright blue "sky."
Then we carefully placed some seeds at the bottom for the plants to "grow" out of, added pipe cleaner stems, and tissue paper flowers.

    We also took a quick trip out to our garden site to see how the dirt has been prepared for our seeds by being all weeded and tilled.  The kids felt the difference between the hard, packed dirt that was out there last week and the newly softened tilled dirt today.  Almost ready to start planting! :)