Silkworm Lessons & Activities for Teachers
By Sue Kayton
Give each child a silkworm in a cut-down milk carton placed on their desk.
Have them put in a fresh leaf twice a day or chunk of
and have them empty the droppings out daily. Put the silkworm on a stick and
they can see it crawl around. Wait until the caterpillars are
an inch long, since there is a high mortality rate for the first
Have the kids measure the length of the silkworms and graph them
as they grow.
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.
With a full-grown caterpillar, you can easily 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. For more information on insect
circulatory systems, check out
If a female moth happens to be laying eggs, have the children
watch. You can actually see the yellow eggs emerge one at a time
from her rear end! She feels around with her ovipositor
("egg-layer" in Latin) until she feels an empty place to put the egg.
You can make silk thread without killing any of the pupas.
When the cocoons are spun, there is a fair amount of loose
silk on them. Have the children gently pull it off the cocoon,
making sure not to crush it. They can then roll it between
their fingers to make a coarse silk thread.
In order to unwind the cocoon, you must kill the pupa inside.
Place the cocoons on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Then drop the cocoons in boiling water. After the water has sufficiently
cooled, you can reach in (wearing rubber dishwashing gloves)
and begin to unwind the cocoon. Unwinding five at a time will make
a fine, strong thread.
You can cut out shapes from cardboard and stick it on a bottle.
Then place the spinning worm on the top. The worm, not having a
corner to spin its cocoon, will criss cross over the top of the
card and around the edges. Once the worm becomes a pupa, take it
off the card, take the silk off the card and you'll have a silk woven
shape like a heart or cross or star. Of course, the worms don't
care much for corners on shapes, so there will be rounded corners
instead of sharp ones. You can put more than one worm on a shape
to make it thicker. These silk shapes made great bookmarks.
Today silk can be worn by anyone, not just emperors and noblemen
and their families. Silk is made into many lovely fabrics, such
as satin, velvet, chiffon, crepe, brocade, taffeta, faille and
shantung. A good class project would be to see how many different
kinds of silk cloth could be collected and put them on a chart for
the kids to see and feel. The beautiful colors of silk would also
make a nice chart.
Silkworm Poem and Song
You can find a very cute Silkworm Poem and Song about Silkworms by
Silkworm Related Books for the Classroom
The Silkworm Shop offers several fictional and non-fictional books
that your class will find fascinating.
Please Click Here to browse our book selection.