Lifecycles of Butterflies
The Butterfly Emerges
As butterflies emerge, the students continue to observe. Students focus on the adult stage of the life cycle, the butterfly. They identify various body parts of the butterfly stage.
INQA: Scientific investigations are designed to gain knowledge about the natural world.
INQF: Scientists develop explanations, using observations (evidence) and what they already know about the world. Explanations should be based on evidence from investigations.
LS1B: Animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into children, adolescents, then adults, reproducing (which begins a new cycle), and eventually dying. The details of the life cycle are different for different animals.
LS3A: There are variations among the same kinds of plants and animals.
LS3B: The offspring of a plant or animal closely resembles its parents, but close inspection reveals differences.
Butterflies have a life cycle and change with each stage. Butterflies have distinct butterfly body parts.
It's a good idea to duplicate the two life cycle wheel pieces (page 61 and 63) (Teacher's guide, version 2002) on index-weight paper. The six pictures on page 62 won't fit well on the life cycle wheel if children cut out the squares. They need to cut closely around the pictures.
Life Cycle Wheel
The Life Cycle of a Butterfly on Activity Sheet 8 can be used in a variety of ways. Students could glue them into the science notebook in sequence or make a sequential headband or necklace. Another option is to have students draw the life cycle and label it in the science notebook.
As children (and teacher!) watch the butterflies emerge from the chrysalis, it is so thrilling that it may be hard to make careful observations. As the butterflies continue to emerge over time, students should observe such things as the butterflies pumping their wings to force fluid into the wings to firm them up. Students may also observe the joining of the two halves of the proboscis into one complete organ. They should also observe how the butterfly uses its feet, wings, proboscis, and antennae. Point out, if students don't observe it themselves, the different colors of the tops and undersides of the wings.
A really important skill will be recapturing escapee butterflies. They seem to fly toward light and windows, which is a good place to nab them. If worse comes to worse, your school might have a mascot butterfly or two.
Most resources refer to the butterfly's life cycle as a four-stage life cycle, yet there are six pictures provided. Point out that 3 of the six pictures are actually the larva or caterpillar stage and are just different sizes of the caterpillar.
Once the chrysalises are empty, give them to students to tape into their science notebooks with appropriate labeling. Tape right over the top of the chrysalis to protect it, as well as to fasten it to the page. Kids love this real artifact.
This lesson can work at any point between Lesson 7 to 10 if you are waiting for the butterflies to emerge. Pacing and sequence of these lessons depends on the insects. Don't skip any of these lessons.
Background Information: One important vocabulary word is meconium. Meconium is a reddish waste that accumulates as the butterfly forms in the chrysalis. Students often become concerned that the butterflies are “bleeding” and this bit of information can help alleviate their concerns.
Meconium stain in flight cage.
Sometimes a chrysalis will become detached and fall. This is very likely to result in a deformed butterfly if it is able to emerge. This is unfortunate, but is one of those highly teachable moments, providing an opportunity to relate to human disabilities.
As butterflies emerge they will pump their limp, wrinkled wings, forcing fluid into them causing the wings to expand and firm up. The proboscis is the nectar-sucking organ through which the butterfly eats. When the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, the proboscis is in two parts and the butterfly "zips" the two parts into the one organ.
Butterfly proboscis in two parts being knitted together.
Butterfly emerging from chrysalis.
No reading support for this lesson.
If teachers need to deal with the death of some butterflies, a good book to read aloud is Judith Viorst's The Tenth Good Thing About Barney.
Several good books about children dealing with disabilities are also available. These books provide children with a positive perspective on the lives and potential of humans with disabilities. Check the Literature Links on the left-hand side of the screen for more books.