This post originally appeared on the blog Around the Kampfire.
Our butterfly life cycle activities are always a highlight and this year was no different! These past few weeks have been all about caterpillars and butterflies and metamorphosis, oh my! We went hands-on all the way as we learned about the life cycle, metamorphosis, pollination, and more!
Butterfly Life Cycle Activities
We waited anxiously for our tiny caterpillars to arrive so that we could begin observing the butterfly life cycle first hand. After reading informational books and starting a KWL chart, students had some prior knowledge and lots of questions.
With our books at the ready and our charts in place my class, was beyond excited to get started. What was taking those caterpillars so long?
Download your copy of this FREE Butterfly Life Cycle Bulletin Board Set
Observing the Changes
When our caterpillars finally arrived, the first thing we learned was how to handle them with care.
Each student received their own caterpillar and of course, they named them! Pure kid-heaven!
To help observe the changes up close everyone got a hand lens, too.
We used our life cycle journals to record dates and the changes we observed each day.
Once the life cycle was complete and our last butterfly emerged from it’s chrysalis, we analyzed and discussed the data we recorded.
Students added the dates of significant changes to a calendar. I then placed them in groups with these discussion cards. Students used their calendars to compare dates and data, discuss with their friends, and count the days between changes as the metamorphosis took place.
As our butterfly life cycle activities progressed, we had several mini-lessons along the way. After each one, we added our written responses, done in mini books, to our culminating projects: this foldable butterfly booklet. Each piece of the booklet has a mini-lesson with visuals or charts as well as a writing component. I love to get my kids writing, especially about science!
Life Cycle Learning Labs
There are so many opportunities while learning about the life cycle to integrate literacy, writing, and math. We did just that as students explored, observed and problem-solved their way through our butterfly learning labs.
My class was in all their glory as we did this pollination simulation!
How do butterflies help plants grow? Here’s what we did to find out. But first, we dressed up our fingers as very hungry butterflies!
I saved this mini-lesson until after our lab so we could compare our findings to the lesson and talk more about how butterflies help plants grow.
Integrating Math Into A Butterfly Study
To integrate math into our butterfly unit, we did this teacher-guided activity.
Graphing the Life Cycle
In addition to measuring and adding lengths, we also graphed the life cycle. These easy-to-prep graphs are so much fun and give students a visual reference while comparing how long it took our caterpillars to pass through each stage of the life cycle.
Read more about our butterfly graphing and measurement activities and how we collected our data to make bar graphs and line plots. (Be sure to download the FREE butterfly math measurement activity there too!).
I showed my class this absolutely incredible and BEYOND beautiful video from Ted Talks on YouTube made by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg. Click on the picture to view it.
Incorporating Reading Skills
Well now, being a butterfly, or a caterpillar for that matter, is not all sunshine and nectar. Butterflies have their problems, too.
We matched some problems to solutions that could be encountered during the butterfly’s life cycle.
As our butterfly life cycle activities continued, we did another science lab that helped us to explore an insect’s compound eye.
As we learned how a butterfly’s compound eye helps to protect them, we explored this further and applied our new knowledge in a learning lab. Students used kaleidoscopes to help them imagine life through an insect’s eyes and to compare a compound eye to a simple eye.
Butterfly Science In Literacy Centers
As a way to manage it all, I have students complete some of the writing, vocabulary mini books, diagrams for our butterfly booklets during literacy center time. Others parts we did after our learning labs or during our writing block.
During their butterfly study, my teammate made this life cycle on a string craft with her class to display in our life cycle garden.
Her students wrote about each stage of the life cycle in these little mini leaf booklets.
Get these butterfly activities & resources for YOUR classroom!
The unit includes 2-3 weeks of lesson plans, 9 mini-lessons and 6 learning labs. Each mini-lesson and lab includes a writing component or mini-book that can be added to the final project, the foldable butterfly booklet. I’ve added several versions of many of the writing pieces and prompts to make differentiating a snap! Customize your booklets by choosing the versions you wish to use!
I’ve included everything you need to teach a complete unit including lesson plans, vocabulary work, reference charts, math integration, and assessment in this butterfly life cycle resource.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our classroom adventures while raising butterflies! If you’re like me and also teach about the life cycle of plants, see “It’s Planting Time! in my classroom” here. I think you’ll enjoy all of our hands-on learning ideas and fun with a focus! (Be sure to find more FREEbies while you’re there!)
Linda holds a degree in Early Childhood Education with Literacy Specialist and Gifted endorsements. With 20 years of teaching experience, she has a passion for creating and sharing activities that excite students and make learning fun. Connect with Linda at Around the Kampfire where she shares her classroom adventures, humor, and time-saving ideas with other educators. Visit Linda’s store to find thoughtful and complete units that will enable you to teach organized and effective lessons to your primary students.