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Caterpillars to Butterflies Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-ENT001
Author: Elaine Wilson, Anchorage, Alaska Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): Kindergarten


  • Science/Entomology

OVERVIEW: This unit involves setting up a science activity that allows students to observe the development of a caterpillar into a butterfly.


The purpose is to give children an appreciation of nature by teaching them about the life cycle of the butterfly.

OBJECTIVES: My objectives are:

  • to develop language
  • to learn sequencing skills
  • to learn graphing and other math skills
  • to experience art in a different light
  • to learn about balance in nature, using the life cycle of the butterfly as an example
  • to compare and contrast butterflies and moths
  • RESOURCES/MATERIALS: I ordered my butterfly kit from: Insect Lore Products, Inc., P.O. Box 1535, Shafer, California 93263 Our district has these films: Butterfly, Caterpillars Grow and Change, Bugs and Butterflies Book list:

    The Life Cycle of the Painted Lady Butterfly, by Barbara Murray
    The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
    A Moth is Born, Rand McNally Publishers
    Now I Know…A Butterfly, by Troll
    Amazing World of Butterflies and Moths, by Louis Sabin and Jean Helmer
    Mysteries and Marvels of Insect Life, by Dr. Jennifer Owen
    The Life Cycle of the Butterfly, By Paula Hogan
    Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus


    I first ordered a butterfly kit. The kit contained caterpillars in a small plastic cup with food, a garden box to view the butterflies, and the rest of the supplies needed. In coming years I will order just a replacement larva kit of caterpillars and food.

    Start the month of May with a calendar of the days written on butterflies of different colors. Follow a pattern according to color. Read to the students from list above.

    Compare different kinds of butterflies, monarch, red admiral, tiger swallowtail, common sulphur, and painted lady. Color each of these kinds.

    Do a graphing lesson on a favorite kind of butterfly. Learn the difference between butterflies and moths. Estimate the number of days from the caterpillar to chrysalis stage. Estimate the number of days from the chrysalis to butterfly stage. Learn and label the six parts of a butterfly.

    Do a sequencing lesson on the life cycle of a butterfly beginning with eggs on a leaf, caterpillar stage, pupa or chrysalis stage to adult butterfly.

    Observe the growth of the caterpillar in the cup. As the caterpillar got bigger, it was easier to see the segments of the caterpillar. We tried to distinguish all 12 segments. Make a paper caterpillar, including the 12 segments plus the head and tail.

    Make a construction paper caterpillar which opens up to be a butterfly. After making these, learn the poem:

    Caterpillar Fuzzy, wuzzy, creepy crawly
    Caterpillar funny
    You will be a butterfly
    When the days are sunny.

    Wiggling, flinging, dancing, springing
    Butterfly so yellow,
    You were once a caterpillar,
    Wriggly, wiggly, fellow.

    by Lillian Vabada

    Learn The Caterpillar poem by Christina G. Rossetti. Make caterpillar books. They could be in the shape of a caterpillar. Students use their knowledge to write a story of what happens to a caterpillar from the caterpillar’s point of view.

    As the chrysalis starts to turn black and transparent, predict which of the chrysalis will become a butterfly first.

    Students observe the chrysalis and butterflies. They help feed the butterflies with sugar water. We also added real flowers in our flower garden box.


    When the unit was completed, we reflected back to the very beginning and remembered what the caterpillars looked like and what they developed into. We talked about the changes, and how this happens every year, year after year. We then sang a special goodbye song to our butterflies that we sang together as a class daily. We then released the butterflies to their natural habitat.

    May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.