Daily activity 48: Maria Sibylla Merian

May 27, 2020

This week’s theme:

Mysterious People: Inspirational Women

Fact of the day:

Maria Sibylla Merian was naturalist and scientific illustrator, she was one of the first people to observe insects directly.

Resources list:

Paints and paper; Youtube; paper and scissors, net/hat/bowl/bag to catch in; binoculars or magnifying glass; recycling and selotape.

Activity 1:

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717, Germany) was a botanical illustrator, which means she recorded plants and insects by illustrating them in watercolour paints as photography had yet to be invented.

Try painting or drawing some flower and insects, either ones you can see or ones that you could look at online – would be make a good botanical illustrator? Share your illustrations with us on our FacebookInstagram or Twitter or send it to melanie@purplepatcharts.org and we’ll put it online for you!

Activity 2:

Maria once said “I spent my time investigating insects. At the beginning, I started with silk worms in my home town of Frankfurt. I realized that other caterpillars produced beautiful butterflies or moths, and that silkworms did the same. This led me to collect all the caterpillars I could find in order to see how they changed.” Maria became the first person to ever record the metamorphosis of caterpillar into butterfly.

Watch this fascinating clip of the life-cycle of a caterpillar; can you act some of it out – Munch like a caterpillar; Make a J shape with your body or your arms; Wriggle and twist like a chrysalis; Push out of your shell; Start off scrunched up and small like the butterfly’s wings and then make yourself grow larger and bigger like the wings; Spread and flap your wings and fly like a butterfly; drink from a flower.

Activity 3:

Cut out some butterfly shapes when you have enough, have someone throw them, or release them from above you – in a net (or hat, box, bowl or bag) see how many fluttering butterflies you can catch to investigate like Maria.

Activity 4:

One of Maria’s claims to fame is that she is one of the first naturalists to have studied insects. She recorded and illustrated the life cycles of 186 insect species. Watch this clip that shows the way insects move, wriggle, scurry and ‘dance’ and then try out some of those moves dancing to this song.

Activity 5:

Maria sailed to South America (to places such as Suriname) on scientific explorations to find new and strange creatures. She undertook these scientific expeditions at a time when such trips were unusual and normally undertaken by men only.

Go on an expedition of your own around your house. What would you need if you were packing a bag for a nature trip to Suriname? Dress the part and act out your trek through South American rainforests. Look high, look low, look under things and into things to discover creatures. Go on a hunt for as many green things you can find in your house.

If you have binoculars, a magnifying glass and a garden, you could explore the nature and insects out there too!

Activity 6:

Maria discovered new and strange creatures on her trips. Create your own strange new creatures from your recycling. Tape and glue things together, add some legs and eyes and see what you can create! How would they move? What would they be called? What sounds would they make? What would they smell like? Share your creatures with us on our FacebookInstagram or Twitter or send it to melanie@purplepatcharts.org and we’ll put it online for you!