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  • Poetry with Fred the Thread – upper primary is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource. It uses a humorous poem read by author and scientist Dr Robert Hoare.

    Curriculum information

    This teaching resource is intended for NZC level 3 or above. The poem and accompanying activities support learning in multiple curriculum areas.


    • Recognise that text is shaped for a particular audience.
    • Recognise underlying ideas within and between texts.


    • Living things are suited to their particular habitat.
    • Living things are grouped into science-based classifications.


    • Use devices and metric units to measure length.
    • Interpret and use scales.

    Customising the resources

    Scan through the Student worksheet: Poetry with Fred the Thread – learning activities for upper primary below. The worksheet is also available in a Word file here and in the link at the bottom of this page. In addition to the activities, the Word document has the full text of the poem, complete with images.

    Feel free to edit the Word document to meet the needs of your programme and your learners.

    Student worksheet: Poetry with Fred the Thread – learning activities for upper primary

    These learning activities use the poem Fred the Thread written by Dr Robert Hoare. Fred is a native caterpillar, Houdinia flexilissima, that lives in plants with long, very narrow leaves. Scientists think Fred might be the world’s thinnest caterpillar. No one even knew this caterpillar existed until a few years ago, when Robert helped to find him. Robert likes Fred so much that he wrote a poem about him.


    1. Watch the video and listen while Robert reads his poem.
    2. Try reading the poem aloud. Challenge yourself to read the poem as fluently as Robert does. (He read the poem in one continuous take – no video edits were required!)
    3. Read the article Fred the Thread. It tells the story of how Robert and his colleague Corinne discovered this new species.
    4. Examine a stanza or stanzas from the poem for factual versus fanciful statements (stanzas are a bit like paragraphs – a recurring pattern throughout a poem). For example, in the first stanza, Fred is described as an orange-red colour and as eating Sporadanthus stems. These are both true. However, Fred is not actually thinner than a cotton thread. He is extremely thin (1 mm across), and this reference is used to highlight thinness as a special feature of Fred. Write down an example (or examples) that you have found.
    5. Identify words or phrases that:
    • create scientific meaning
    • create and sustain interest
    • promote humour
    • explore feelings rather than scientific fact.


    Fred the Moth is even smaller than Fred the Thread. The adult moth is less than half a centimetre long with a wingspan of 12 mm.

    1. Use a ruler to draw a 4 mm x 12 mm rectangle.
    2. Make a drawing of Fred the moth with accurate dimensions (this image will help).
    3. Find other items outdoors or around the house that fit in your rectangle.
    4. Look at the images of Fred as a larva (or caterpillar form) and a moth. How would you check whether the measurements given in each caption are accurately reflected by the scale in each image?


    1. Adaptations are specific features that help a species live in its habitat. Identify the lines that describe Fred’s adaptations for living inside the narrow Sporadanthus cane rush stem.
    2. View and compare images of Fred the caterpillar with a red admiral caterpillar. Read the articles Fred the Thread and Butterfly defence mechanisms to learn more about the larvae’s adaptations. Create a table with similarities and differences between Fred and the red admiral caterpillar.
    3. Reread the article Fred the Thread and explain why the scientists who discovered this species decided to give it the scientific name Houdinia flexilissima.

    Writing and presenting

    Newly discovered species are often named by the people who discover them. The scientists who discovered Fred gave the species the scientific name Houdinia flexilissima.

    1. Watch this video to hear how Robert and Corinne named Fred. What features does its scientific name refer to?
    2. Invent and sketch a species of your own and give it a name that describes some of its features. It can be a plant, mammal, insect etc.
    3. Write a paragraph or create a short video introducing your new species and explaining the name you have chosen for it.

    Related content

    Science and literacy – using Fred the Thread has additional literacy ideas and activities.

    Poetry with Fred the Thread – middle primary has literacy and numeracy activities at NZC level 2 and above. The science focus is on life cycles.

    Learn more about nocturnal adaptations of moths.

    Check out the Ahi Pepe MothNet project. It has resources in te reo Māori and English.

    Activity ideas

    Moth collecting – watch Robert Hoare as he collects moths in an Auckland park, then think about how you might catch moths in your backyard. Mothnet has Puka Whakamārama o Te Pepe Nui – Beginners’ Guides to the Macro-Moths. These free, downloadable regional guides are in te reo Māori and English.

    Rear moths to observe their life cycles using pantry moths or wax moths.

      Published 19 April 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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