Transformation: YEAR 1 - Science - Elaborate

Little J finds a Hawk Moth caterpillar on the Tar vine in the backyard that he names ‘Sausage’. He wants to take it to school but the caterpillar has other ideas and disappears underground. Nanna teaches Little J the story about the Yeperenye caterpillar of the Arrernte people from central Australia. Sausage finally returns to give Little J a further lesson on life cycles. Sissy wants to perform a dance for the school with Big Cuz, but Big Cuz feels ‘shame’.

Elaborate - Represent and communicate observations and ideas in a variety of ways


After viewing Little J & Big Cuz, Episode 10 ‘Transformation’, ask students to examine an image of a Yeperenye caterpillar.In this episode, Little J is disappointed when Nanna says he can’t take ‘Sausage’ the caterpillar to school.

As a class, discuss how Nanna’s Arrernte story about the giant caterpillars who went underground helps Little J understand where ‘Sausage’ has gone. Nanna tells Little J that Sausage will come back after a good rain, when he has pupated (changed) underground.

Nanna’s story is available from

Examine the life cycle of a moth and/or butterfly and have students learn the terms associated with each stage: eggs, caterpillar, pupa, moth or butterfly.

Divide the class into smaller groups and have each group research the life cycle of a specific moth and/or butterfly. Students should include the following information:

  • location of the habitat of the insect
  • food that it eats
  • time to metamorphosis from eggs to adult
  • scientific identification (names)
  • conditions that maintain life, e.g. rains, temperature, predators, etc. For example, the Yeperenye (Hawk moth) caterpillar needs enough rain to make the tar vine grow and soften the soil so that it can dig a burrow (hole) 15 cm into the ground to safely pupate (change) into a moth. 

Investigating soil

For this activity, the class will need

  • three to five garden forks or trowels
  • a patch of soil in which students can dig holes
  • ruler or short sticks with a 15 cm measurement marked at one end
  • a watering can or bucket with the volume clearly marked
  • a source of water.

1. Take the class into a garden or outdoor area near the school.

  • Have small groups of students dig a 15 cm deep hole with the trowel or a fork and feel the bottom of the hole.
  • Discuss whether it feels dry, wet, or something in between.
  • Ask students to rub the soil between their fingers and have students explore the texture of it.
  • Have students describe it as gritty like sand, soft, crumbly or very fine and/or dusty soil.
  • They then dig two more 15 cm deep holes somewhere slightly different (nearby) and compare the moisture and soil texture across all three holes.
  • Ask students to evaluate if the effort of digging down into the soil would be difficult for the caterpillar, and to explain why or why not.

2. Move to a fresh patch of earth nearby. Ask students if they think that digging would be easier after rain.

  • Record how many litres are in each full bucket or watering can.
  • Pour the water from the bucket or watering can very slowly onto the patch of earth.
  • Dig a hole again and measure how deep the water penetrated. Look for the change in colour and touch the soil to check for moisture.
  • Discuss whether the water penetrated the full 15 cm or was only partially absorbed by the soil.
  • Gradually (slowly) keep adding water until the moisture penetrates a full 15 cm into the soil.
  • Record students’ observations about how the soil and the water behaved, and the final amount of water required to soak the soil.
  • Have students draw conclusions on how much rain is needed for the Yeperenye caterpillar to complete its life cycle.

3. Have students learn how to collate rainfall: 1 mm of rain over 1 m2 area = 1 Litre of water.

  • Using tape, mark out a one metre square test area.
  • Propose the question: how many litres of water is needed to wet the whole of this square to 15 cm deep?
  • Model for the students how you would make an estimate (it would be difficult to be absolutely accurate, so a rough estimate is fine). If it took 45 L of water to dampen the square metre of soil to 15 cm, how many mm of rain is that? (answer: 45 mm)

4. Print out the annual, Bureau of Meteorology month-by-month rainfall records for the local area.

  • Ask students to find the months when there was enough rain for Yeperenye caterpillars to dig their burrows (down to 15 cm).
  • Since students have experimented and found out how many litres/mm of rain would be needed to wet the soil to 15 cm deep (calculated in part 4), they can now look for the months on the rainfall chart when that amount of rain is most likely to fall.

5. Have students work in small groups, using the previously developed life cycle map of a butterfly/moth, and add information about the months of the year in which the stages of the life cycle occur and the average rainfall and temperatures for those months. Have each group share their findings and life cycle illustrations with the rest of the class.

Have students enter their data and research about animals and their seasonal behaviours into their science journal.

A science journal is a record of a students’ observations, experiences and reflections. Each entry is dated and annotated by the student. Annotations may include written labels, drawings, diagrams, charts, small specimens, photographs, and graphs. Student engagement and learning is evident in the science journal.”

Sourced from: Primary Connections, Linking science with literacy