Caterpillars to Butterflies 101

If you have never had caterpillars turn into butterflies in your classroom before, I hope you will give it a try!  The children LOVE this!
   They love watching the little caterpillars grow,
      they love watching the silent chrysalis,
         and they especially love the miracle
              of the emerging butterfly!
 
Caterpillars in your classroom is a wonderful hands-on science project about life cycles and it also creates excitement that makes teaching cross-curricular topics a joy, because your students will be so engaged!

Butterflies all go through the amazing process of metamorphosis, starting with the egg, hatching into the hungry caterpillar, transforming into the silent pupa and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly.  However, different butterfly species have varying durations for each stage:

PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY:  This is the kind you will have if you order from Insect Lore.
 
  • Egg:  4-14 days
  • Larva (caterpillar):  2-4 weeks
  • Pupa (chrysalis): 7-14 days
  • Adult (butterfly): 6-20 days
 
 
MONARCH BUTTERFLY:  The photos above are of the Monarch Butterfly (my personal favorite).
 
  • Egg: 4-6 days
  • Larva (caterpillar):  2-3 weeks
  • Pupa: (chrysalis): 5-15 days
  • Adult (butterfly): 1-3 months
 

Materials & Preparation

The first thing I like to do is find come butterfly larva (caterpillars).  Some caterpillar sources:

  • A friend who has caterpillars in her garden (with their host plant for food)
  • Caterpillars from your own garden
  • Insect Lore: before I started planting milkweed to attract the monarch butterflies,  I ordered from them.  I have ordered butterfly larva (caterpillars) from Insect Lore for over 15 years and have had great success.

Classroom Activities

My favorite way of introducing the life cycle of the butterfly is with a ‘mystery box’.  It requires them to use deductive reasoning as they ask questions that can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.  This activity peeks their curiosity and definitely primes their curiosity.    You will probably find that they never tire of trying to ‘deduct’ what you put in the box!

After your students have ‘deduced’ what you put in the mystery box is the perfect time to do part of the KWL chart.  K=What We Know, W= What We Wonder.  This can be done as a whole group, partners, or individual activity, depending o the needs and abilities of your students.  As we continue through our unit we will fill in L= new learning.
 
This is an amazing video that takes your students through all the stages of  metamorphosis: adult, egg, larva, pupa, and completing the cycle with the hatching of the adult butterfly.

After your students have ‘deduced’ what you put in the mystery box is the perfect time to do part of the KWL chart.  

= What We Know.

=  What We Wonder.  This can be done as a whole group, partners, or individual activity, depending o the needs and abilities of your students.

= new learning -As we continue through our unit we will fill this section in.

This is an amazing video that takes your students through all the stages of  metamorphosis: adult, egg, larva, pupa, and completing the cycle with the hatching of the adult butterfly.

Watching the caterpillars eat and grow delights the kids (as well as adults) and they never seem get enough ‘caterpillar time’.  

This is the perfect occasion for them to make an entry in their ‘Caterpillar Observation Journal’.

After the caterpillars change into a pupa in the chrysalis, I transfer them to the butterfly ‘pavilion’.  If you have a place to hang it, then the students can enjoy the waiting time with more ‘watching in wonder’.

The look on their faces tell it all – WONDER!

You can fill this ‘waiting time’  with lots of activities.  The kids are quite motivated to research, read, discuss, and write about all things butterflies!  I provide lots of opportunities for as many curriculum areas as possible.  As you do this unit with your students, I am sure you will think of many ways to incorporate your content standards!
 

Take is a peek at some of the resources
I created to use during this time:

Butterfly Day!

It is kind to set the butterflies free within a few days after hatching from their chrysalis.  I have found that watermelon is a butterfly favorite and they will often sit on a piece of it and let the kids enjoy them … one last time before they flutter away.

Two little cuties enjoying the painted ladies on Flutter-by Day!

We make little flutter-by butterfly crafts after we set the butterflies free.  The fun craft makes seeing our beauties fly away a little less sad…

 
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Butterfly RESOURCES:

Here are some of my favorite butterfly resources from Amazon.
(These are affiliate links.)

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Welcome

My name is Peggy Means. I am a child of God and a retired elementary teacher. I loved teaching and creating engaging resources for my students. Now, I love sharing my resources and ideas with busy teachers around the world.

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