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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #113
March 17, 2010

Metamorphosis

Microcosmos + Caterpillar Adoption and Butterfly Release

Microcosmos, a French documentary, reveals the teeming life that exists in a peaceful French meadow during a single, late-summer day by using special cameras that get close-up and personal to ladybugs, spiders, caterpillars (and many, many other intriguing insects). Soon after the opening, the camera fixes on an image of a blade of grass reflected in a drop of water, and that bulbous natural mirror provides such an elegant view onto the natural world that we were rooted to our seats for the next 70 minutes. Technology makes this hidden world come alive; close-up cameras to go inside an anthill, time lapse photography captures a bee pollinating a flower, and sound effects as well as musical cues create big-screen drama from a battle between a few beetles, or a ladybug bullied by a torrent of ants. The miracle of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon is filmed with such intimacy that we felt we could feel the sticky cocoon as it was peeled back and discarded. Two snails romance each other to an aria, a spider skillfully captures a grasshopper in her deadly silk, a dandelion opening to full puffery. We loved seeing an odd train of caterpillars march across parched eath, like a freight train stretches across a western sky, and two ants sharing a drop of water as if it were a cocktail. Because the film doesn't have much dialogue, we found ourselves chatting as we watched each mini-drama unfold, marveling at the oddly human behaviors of insects. Just watching raindrops hit a pond during an afternoon storm, sending frogs and dragonflies to seek cover, was enough to insure this film will always have a place in our hearts.

We saw enough caterpillars and butterflies in the film to get excited about witnessing one of the most elegant demonstrations of the life cycle - watching a caterpillar metamorphose into a butterfly. It's possible to hatch a butterfly from a mail-order caterpillar kit, and even cooler if you have a children's museum or nature center near you that sells their own version of the kits. For $5, each child adopted a caterpillar and, each day for a month, our kids watched the larvae in his container, dubious that anything was happening, yet ever hopeful that the magic was taking place.  One day when they checked back, the chrysalis had begun to form and then...it was hard to keep from checking the larvae's progress at closely timed intervals throughout the day. To watch the beautiful wings unwrap from their sticky wrapping blew the kids away!  Our butterfly was ready to be fly free, so we gathered the family and let her go in the backyard - the thrill of that first, rickety flight was like none other. Much to our delight, the release happens slowly - the butterflies take their time, hopping about our shoulders and noses before taking to the sky.

 
Film Title: Micro
Directed By: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou
1996, Rated G, 80 minutes


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why It's Worth It: Whether your kids already love bugs, or squirm at the very idea, their curiosity will explode after seeing this extraordinary, kid-friendly documentary that brings viewers up close and personal to the lives of countless beetles, ladybugs, ants and dragonflies. After just a few moments of viewing there is very little to squirm at - filmmakers make us feel these bugs are our friends by showing us the intimate moments of their extraordinary lives.
  • Red Flags: The film is subtitled, but uses very few words, so it's not a problem for children over seven and will fascinate tween and teens and adults, as well.
  • Further Viewing: The insect world stars in a few other fun films, like A Bug's Life, Antz.

Our Tips for Talking with your Kids About this Film:

  • Documentary Savvy:  Thinking about this film's production can illuminate the process of film making. Can the kids imagine the patience and organization it took for the filmmakers to get the correct camera equipment, and wait for the perfect shot 'in the can'. Further, someone has to parse through all the film to find the images the can tell a story.
  • French Savvy: In French, the film is called " Le Peuple de l'herbe."
  • Irony savvy: One of the film's few lines says most appropriately what this nature documentary accomplishes: "Beyond anything we could imagine, and yet almost beneath our notice."


 

Raise a Caterpillar, Release a Butterfly

Time Allotment: a month's span

Age Recommendation: all ages



Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • Purchase a Caterpillar Kit :  The mail-order kit, which costs approximately $15, contains a live caterpillar and comes with adoption papers, a container and food and a cool observation sheet that helps kids track the changes in the metamorphosis process, which takes approximately three weeks. Once the butterfly hatches, kids can release the butterfly on their own, in the backyard.  Kids shouldn't leave their new butterfly in the cage for more then three days, however. Click here to purchase a kit from Amazon.com.

Our Tips for Extending this Adventure:
  • Tips for Convincing Butterflies to Land on You: Remind your kids that butterflies are fragile, and that they need the scales on their wings to live as long as possible. That said, if a butterfly chooses to land on your child, that's great. Butterfly lore has it that kids should find a sunny spot where there are butterflies about and stay still. Some claim that wearing bright colors, like florescent yellow or pink, attract the winged wonders. But no touching!

 
Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.



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Click here and visit the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.