A butterfly unit can address many science objectives.
Studying butterflies can be a fun way to address many science standards that are necessary for elementary students to learn. Students can learn about living things and life cycles as they study the way the organism changes from a caterpillar to a chrysalis and finally emerges as a butterfly. Besides science, a butterfly unit allows teachers to integrate many other topics such as math and art.
Pasta Butterfly Life Cycle
Have your students represent a butterfly’s life cycle using different types of pasta. Provide them with a piece of paper and ask them to fold it into fourths. In one section, tell them to glue a grain of rice to represent the egg stage of the life cycle. In the next section, they will glue a small piece of linguine pasta to represent a caterpillar. For the chrysalis phase of the life cycle, they will glue a piece of shell pasta in another section of the paper. Finally, instruct them to glue a piece of farfalle, or bow tie pasta in the last section of the paper to represent the adult butterfly.
Butterfly or Moth?
Provide students with a blank Venn diagram, a chart with overlapping circles, and tell them to label one side “Butterfly” and the other side “Moth.” Provide them with books about moths and butterflies and ask them to look for similarities and differences between the two to fill in the Venn diagram. For example, one similarity between moths and butterflies is they both have wings, so students would write that fact in the overlapping part of the Venn diagram. Some differences between moths and butterflies is moths are less brightly colored than butterflies and more active during the night. Instruct students to write these facts in the separate circles of the Venn diagram.
Provide students with a piece of white paper and a butterfly-shaped template. Tell them to trace around the butterfly and cut it out. Show them fold the butterfly vertically so the wings touch. Unfold the butterflies and place drops of paint on one wing of the butterfly. Fold the butterfly again and press the wings together so the paint transfers to the other wing. When students unfold the butterfly, the wings will have a symmetrical pattern on them. Use this opportunity to discuss the concept of symmetry and how butterfly wings have a pattern that is the same on both sides.
Watch a Butterfly Grow
To give students a real-life experience with butterflies, house a caterpillar in your classroom that they can watch as it changes from larvae to adult. Place a few caterpillars in a box with some leaves and water. Cover the box with netting to provide air for the caterpillars. Place the box in a location in the classroom that allows students to observe the changes. Ask students to keep a journal tracking the changes they see as the caterpillar grows and creates a chrysalis. Ask them to predict what day the caterpillars will emerge from the chrysalis as butterflies. Once the butterflies are out of the chrysalises, release them outside if the weather is above 50 degrees F.