Parent & Teacher Resources

Things to Do…. interesting things to do with your silkworms and cocoons at home or in the class room….

NOTE: Many of these activities were taken or modified from information and lesson plans devised by parents and teachers for other activities. 

This sheet is a summary of activities found in a range of resources as well some developed from the teaching and silk farming experiences of our Margaret River Silk Road team.

You will find many more activities on the internet and you may also modify these ones to develop your own!!  Enjoy being creative!

Keeping silkworms:  Silkworms can easily be grown at home and make safe, fun pets.  It requires daily attention for about 60 days and access to a mulberry tree.  Make it a family project over the spring and summer months.

In the classroom, silkworms can be reared as a group or by giving each child their own silkworm to look after.  For individual rearing, ask each student to bring in a takeaway container with a lid for the exercise.  Students could leave their worms in the classroom overnight or take them home each day.

For extra fun… ask students to name their silkworm and give a prize for the most creative results … … hold a competition to see who can grow the longest or heaviest worm … or start a “Silk Facts Noticeboard” using Post It notes and ask students to add things they learn over the rearing period (e.g. how silk was discovered).

Interesting things to find out: (answers can be found on our website or on others listed below)

  • How was silk discovered?
  • How does a silkworm spin silk?
  • How long is the filament in a silk cocoon?
  • Which countries are the largest silk producers?
  • What are the major uses of silk?
  • What are the meanings of the words metamorphosis; larvae; domesticated; pheromones; habitat; moulting?
  • How do you tell male from female?  Cocoons / Moths…
  • Will a silkworm eat foods other than mulberry leaf?  Maybe you could conduct some experiments to find out the answer to this one….

Counting & Numbers Fun…

Count the eggs, the hatchlings, mature silkworms and then the cocoons to determine survival rates at each phase.  Use the information for fun and learning.

There are dozens of other ways to incorporate mathematics activities:

  • Measure or weigh silkworms to determine averages, medians and other norms
  • Create graphs or growth charts to show changes over time

A BIT OF FUN… When the silkworms are large, take the lid off the container and have the children be extremely quiet. They will be able to hear the sound of the silkworms moving around! It sounds like a gentle rainfall. The sound is not chewing, but their little suction-cup feet lifting off the leaves and plopping back down again.

Research how silk was discovered (see this website) and the different uses of silk throughout history.

Browse the internet for books and other resources related to silk and silkworms.  Here are some to start:

www.ehow.com; www.insected.arizona.edu/silkinfo; www.burkesbackyard.com.au/factsheets/Others/Silkworms/2185

Biology:

Life-cycles:  Print the silkworm life-cycle diagram from our website – colour; discuss; label or use for other activities depending on age group.  Post the life-cycle on the wall above your rearing trays at home or in the classroom.

Circulatory systems: With a full-grown caterpillar, you can see the heart pumping blood through the translucent skin. The heart is located at the rear end of the caterpillar on the top. You can see it pulse. The main artery carrying the blood is where the backbone would be if it had one.  You could also modify this exercise to look at other insect circulatory systems or other insect systems.

Watch the female lay her eggs:  This is done from the rear of the female through an opening called an “ovipositor”.  She will usually lay them one-by-one in a circular pattern to ensure they are not laid on top of one another.  Research other interesting facts about silkworm eggs, extending this to discuss egg-laying habits of other animal groups including birds and reptiles.

Activities using the silk cocoons:

Floss yarn: You can make silk thread without killing the pupae.  When the cocoons are fully spun, remove the floss silk from the outside.  In a classroom, the combined floss could be spun like wool or cotton to make a thread.  In the absence of a spinning apparatus the floss can be rolled and twisted between the fingers to make a course thread. Try using the floss silk to felt on a piece of light fabric.

Hand-reeling: You can also hand-reel the silk from the cocoon.  This is done by placing the cocoon in a cup or bowl of boiling water (this will kill the pupa).  When the water is cool enough, the silk thread can be unwound from the cocoon.  Unwinding 5 or more cocoons at one time will make a thicker thread which can be wound around a pop stick or cardboard shape for use as a bookmark, mobile or key ring.  Hold a competition to see which group of five can reel the longest thread.  (NOTE: the silk can be unwound dry without killing the pupa inside however it will be much more difficult and the thread will keep breaking.

Try “inventing” a small reeling machine.  Use a Meccano set or other materials to make a frame which can be used to unwind the silk from the cocoons.

Make silk shapes:  Cut out a shape (a cross / a star / your initial) from cardboard and stick it on the top of a bottle. Place the mature worm ready to spin on the top. As the worm will not have a corner to spin its cocoon, it will criss-cross over the top of the card and around the edges making a flat layer of silk.  When the worm becomes a pupa, take it off the card and remove the silk.  Placing more than one worm on the shape will make a thicker piece of silk.

ART…Collect pieces of silk fabric – all different weights and colours.  Cut these into narrow strips then use them to weave a long banner.  Leave the strip ends poking through the weave to create a three-dimensional textile wall-hanging.  Or you could try making a group patchwork!

DRAMA: Role-play the life-cycle of the moth:

Egg: Students make themselves into a ball, pretending they are inside an egg case.

Larvae: Students break out of the egg case, stretch their newly discovered larval body, and imitate caterpillar crawling and feeding without hands (real or imagined).  Have students imagine their caterpillar body growing as they eat.

Pupa: Turn off lights. All movement stops and students curl and pretend to spin cocoon case around their body until they are totally encased and motionless. In the cocoon, students are changing so have them take three to five long, slow, deep breaths.

Adult Moth: Students slowly break out of the cocoon, unfold their wings, and flutter slowly at first and fly around the room. (Turn lights on.) The moths rest during the day.

(This is taken from www.insected.arizona.edu where there is also a teacher narrative to go with it.