Butterflies and Mimosa

22 Apr

Young tropical butterfly perched in garden

Only a day old, and under a fortnight to live

I’ve always been a fan of provincial museums. Which probably comes from growing up in an era when the Thomas the Tank Engine road show meant one man, a trainset, some photos and some index cards, hammered out on the kind of manual typewriter which takes the circle out of the O, rather than today’s arena-packing multimedia extravaganza at thirty quid plus per head.

And, since he got to see T-Rex footprints being cast and hold real meteorites and dinosaur bones, at the Dinosaur Museum in Savannakhet, Laos, Z’s a convert too. So, naturally, we loved the butterfly garden in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

It’s a suitably pocket-sized slice of stunning tropical flowers, with gorgeous, metallic gold pupae awaiting their metamorphosis on a shady wall.

Golden pupae at the Butterfly Garden, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

All that glitters...

Ten different types of butterfly, from linen-yellow tiny creatures to rainforest giants with wings like stained glass and jet-black, feathery moth types with fuchsia thoraxes, flutter between the flowers.

And, in the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach which is a big part of the magic of a small town museum, they’ve packed in a tank of Malaysian giant scorpions, some stick insects, and a gecko and praying mantis, which eye each other with an air of mutual respect from opposite corners of the cage.

Palawan, the most westerly province of the Philippines, has one of the best preserved ecosystems in the nation: there’s a lot in common with Borneo, in fact. So the flowers, which sprout in profusion, are stunning. Flowers in the Butterfly Garden, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

But I think for Z the real highlight was their mimosa, the touch-sensitive tropical plant which curls as you touch it. He made a video of it, here.

He and I have been talking about the notion of “unschooling” as an effective way to educate on the road, and testing the waters over the last few days. It is, essentially, a child-led approach to learning, where children learn as and how they want to learn, through experiencing the world around them, reading, writing, creating and engaging at will rather than through formal tasks.

Z visited http://www.unschooling.com and thought it sounded “Great! Much more fun that what we’ve been doing.”

The butterfly farm marked our first day’s attempt. In terms of crystallising learning, he decided to design his own butterfly, to which he gave the Latin name Aurum Vanessa. He sat, quite happily, entirely focused on this task for well over an hour.

We’ve managed to unschool maths — probability, exponential versus arithmetic progression, graphs, gradients — writing and history, I think we should be able to add in some Latin, he’s experimenting with French, and I’m doing my darnedest to keep up with his science questions.

So, so far, it’s a success.

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2 Responses to “Butterflies and Mimosa”

  1. Caroline April 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    Fantastic video. Love the idea of unschooling as you and Z have interpreted it. Will check the site.

    Might also be able to get Fred to make some videos to share with Z (this depends on purchase of a new camera tho so don’t hold your breath).

    Over the Easter holidays I treated Fred to a box set collection of Studio Ghibli movies on the condition that he writes short reports/reviews after watching each one. Worked a treat. He illustrates them too. Maybe Z would like the idea of doing that?

    Aslan, in the meantime, began to write and illustrate an amazingly beautiful book of dragons. Fred was inspired to make one too and last time I saw Laouena I noticed that she had started one (they’ve all been to see the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ movie based on the books by Cressida Cowelll). I’ll stick some pics up on Facebook and invite Z to add a few.

    Big hugs to the wee man.

    • MummyT April 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

      That is a brilliant idea! He hates handwriting, but I’ll float it past him, if he doesn’t check his FB first. I will suggest that Z make a video of our trek — currently delayed due to this morning’s “storm-drain” injury (thank fuck there was no rain, or it would have been an open sewer!) — or something to share, as well. I’ll also see if How to Train Your Dragon is on in Manila. Or available in the local ripoff video shop. Z says, “And I say ‘big hugs’ back to her.” xx

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