Butterfly Garden Lesson Activity


The emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis is an exciting climax to a classroom activity that follows the developmental stages in the life of an insect. When placed in a container that allows for easy viewing by all students, butterfly larvae collected from leaves on native plants can be observed over a period of months, during which time they feed, grow, prepare their pupa cases, and withdraw from visible activity until the long-awaited E-Day. Students should be encouraged to "adopt" a larva and follow the sequence of events in which the organism undergoes a complete change in form and emerges as an adult butterfly.

Recommended Grade Level:

Grades 4-6

Strategies Involved:

Student involvement
Science skills development

Materials Required:

  • A clear plastic sweater box or shoe box
  • A shallow cup
  • A square of nylon net
  • Moist soil
  • A large rubber band
  • Two or three caterpillars of painted lady or other species
  • Two or three leafy twigs from the plant on which the caterpillars were found


Enlist the aid of student volunteers for performing the following:

  1. Place a 1-inch base layer of moist soil in the bottom of a clear, plastic sweater box or shoe box.
  2. Set a small cup of water on the surface of the soil.
  3. Place two or three leafy twigs so that their cut ends are immersed in the water in the cup and their upper ends rest against the side of the box.
  4. Gently place the selected caterpillars on the twigs.
  5. Place a square of nylon net over the top of the box and secure it with a strong rubber band, thus forming an escape-proof lid that also provides the caterpillars with proper ventilation.

Encourage students to develop a sensitivity to the events occurring in the butterfly garden and to the well-being of the inhabitants. They should:

  1. Make necessary adjustments to ensure proper conditions of air, light, temperature, and moisture for the developing organisms.
  2. Observe the gradual changes that occur as the caterpillars pass through successive stages ofdevelopment in their life cycles, and mark on a calendar the amount of time spent in each developmental stage.
  3. Release adult butterflies into the outside environment when weather conditions are suitable.

Excerpted from Hands-On Science!

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