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Let's Watch Butterflies: Observing Butterfly Life Cycle Stages Lesson

butterfly life cycle lesson

Subject: Science

Grade: K

Lesson Objective: Learn what a life cycle is and what it looks like for a butterfly.

Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.D

Understand and use question words (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how).

Materials: Marker, whiteboard, coloring sheets, crayons, scissors, and colored paper.


Say: What do you know about butterflies? (Allow several students to share their answers). Over the next month, we will learn about lifecycles and what that is like for butterflies.


Say: Did you know everything that lives in the world has its own lifecycle? Did you know that even YOU have a life cycle? How did you start out? You were a what? It starts with 'b.' (Let kids have a chance to answer).

You started as a baby. You grew inside your mommy's belly until you were ready to come out into the world. Now, you're a big kid. Soon, you'll be a teenager, then you'll grow into a full adult, and you might even have little babies of your own! That's called a lifecycle. 

Bees have lifecycles. Birds have lifecycles. Even trees have lifecycles! But today, we are talking about butterflies. 


Students will draw butterfly wings and act out the butterfly's lifecycle for the remainder of the class. Optional: Coloring sheets of the lifecycle. Students can color along with you while you introduce the stages of their lifecycle. This is most often represented in the shape of a circle with arrows pointing to each stage of the butterfly lifecycle. 

(Draw an egg). Say: Butterflies start as eggs. The big, grown-up butterfly lays hundreds of eggs every month. 

(Draw a caterpillar). Say: Then, the butterfly goes into something called the larva stage. That means the butterfly is a little caterpillar. Have you ever seen a caterpillar? (Allow students to answer and share personal caterpillar-encounter stories). During this stage, the caterpillar eats and eats a lot. It's a very hungry caterpillar. Optional: You may even choose to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar as part of your unit. 

(Draw a cacoon). Say: The next stage is called the pupa, or transition stage. The caterpillar wraps itself up into a little sack that hangs on a tree. This is when the caterpillar goes through something called metamorphosisCan you say metamorphosis? (Allow kids to practice pronunciation). How does the caterpillar become a butterfly?

During the time it's inside its cacoon, it undergoes BIG changes. The caterpillar sleeps for a while and, when it wakes up, it starts to break out of its cocoon. This can be quite a bit of work. But when it's done, do you know what comes out? (Allow students to answer). 

That's right! A butterfly! (Draw a butterfly, then draw arrows connecting the stages). 

Okay, now do you want to be like the butterflies? Today, we're going to play caterpillar, and we're going to turn into beautiful butterflies. (Hand out paper, two sheets per kid.)

Say: You're each going to draw yourselves a pair of butterfly wings, and we're going to go through the whole process together. (Observe students as they work). 

When the caterpillar goes into its cocoon, it spends all that time getting its beautiful, colorful wings. Different types of butterflies have different wings, so you can be any kind of butterfly you want. When you're done, we will go through the cycle again. 

Part II of the Activity: 

Say: Did you all make your wings? (Give students more time as needed). Okay. Butterflies start as eggs. Can you be eggs? (Crouch down and let the students act like eggs to the best of their ability).

Then, we stretch out like caterpillars. We're in the larvae stage. (Let students stretch and wiggle around like caterpillars). Okay, it's metamorphosis time! Get in your cocoons! (Let the students pretend to be in cocoons).

Okay, Everyone, now we are ready. Everybody get your wings because we're about to turn into butterflies!! Get ready! (Act like you're breaking out of a cocoon with all the kids, who will then "fly" around with their wings).


Say: What did you learn about butterflies today? What's a lifecycle? 

You may repeat the process with other animals or plants to further drive home lifecycles.

Further Resources:

Written by Melanie Barrozo

Education World Contributor
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