Planning for Butterflies

30 March 2015 / 3 comments

Hello! I'm Allison and my blog is Stuckey in Second. I'm so happy to be part of this collaborative blog! I hope that we can all learn a lot from each other here, as there will be a post EVERY DAY from a different teacher. How fun, right!?

Today, I'd like to share with you how I plan ahead for the Butterfly Life Cycle Unit that I do in my 2nd grade classroom every year.  

The Importance of Planning Ahead

I think we all know the importance of planning ahead. However, when caterpillars are involved, you really have to plan ahead and make sure you are ready for their arrival. Our district studies the Butterfly Life Cycle in every 2nd grade classroom. The day that the “box” arrives is always an exciting one…more so for the students than the teacher. The box with the big red letters LIVE on it can only mean one thing. Drop everything you had planned for that day and it’s caterpillar time! It’s important to have a PLAN! 

A few weeks before the anticipated arrival of the crawly little caterpillars, I start front-loading my students on the butterfly life cycle. We start talking about what they already know, what they want to learn, what they think will happen, etc. Usually many students know Eric Carle’s story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  However, we need to plan ahead to know that all of those things that caterpillar eats will not be part of our real caterpillars’ diets. 

Starting with a KWL

I use these to help me understand what the kids already know and what they want to know. I also make my own to remind myself of what I want them to know when we are finished with the unit. You can click the KWL organizer below to get a FREE COPY for yourself from my TPT Store!

Planning Ahead Through Reading
 My other favorite way to plan ahead and front-load my students is to completely immerse them in caterpillars and butterflies in the classroom through books. 

I put these books in our seasonal book basket for literacy center rotations. We also read some of these books in our small groups and for read aloud time. I let the students choose these books for their independent reading time. All of this planning ahead will pay off because we will be ready when the caterpillars arrive. Plus…it builds excitement!

Caterpillar Arrival Day

This year, I am planning head for this arrival day. I have created an anchor chart to remind the students of all of the steps we must take when the caterpillars arrive. Plus, I have added some rules for handling the caterpillars.  We also work together ahead of time to make sure we have all of the materials needed for the caterpillars’ arrival.  

Daily Observation & Recording

Here is where we record our observations daily (Or almost daily!) Sometimes it can be a hard task to get everyone’s caterpillar cups out to observe, but our goal is to observe every day! We use the magnifying glasses, then draw a “life-sized” picture of the caterpillar, along with a description, especially if it has changed since the day before.

During these daily observations, we are still reading all of the books that we have to learn even more about our caterpillars while we anticipate the next steps of the life cycle. 

Chrysalis Transfer

Soon, the students start to observe the caterpillar transforming into its chrysalis. At this point, it’s important to have a plan to transfer the chrysalis into the classroom butterfly net “home.” This is mainly done by the teacher, as each chrysalis can be very fragile.  

Butterfly Arrival Planning

Soon, the kids will start notice a lot of wiggling going on inside the net. When this happens, you know that some of the butterflies will start emerging soon, so you need to have "food" available. You'll want to have food available before they come out, but not too soon, or it will dry up.  We use small dishes of sugar water. It is possible to have a straw coming out of the net so you can continue to add water to "wet" the food in case it dries out too soon.  Your students can also help plan for the butterfly arrival by bringing in sticks and flowers for the butterflies. But, once all of the butterflies emerge (depending on how many you have) there isn't much extra room in there! 

Butterfly Flight Day

It's important to plan ahead and be honest with your students from the beginning of the project by telling them that you WILL be letting the butterflies go soon after they all emerge inside the net. This will be upsetting for some of the students (it is every year...), but you can assure them that if they stay in the net they won't be getting the right food and they will not live. It's more important to let them go so that they can find the correct food that they need. Make a party out of it and a big deal! You can even write letters to the butterflies once you come back inside! I have had a lot of students have "sightings" of their butterflies in the weeks following flight day.  

Butterfly Life Cycle Kit

Everyone has their own way of completing the butterfly life cycle with students, but if you are looking for a full set of already prepared activities to get you through the life cycle, here is my full kit in my TPT store. Also, in case you missed it, click on the KWL picture above to get that for FREE from my store. My entire kit is listed below. I hope all of this will help you plan for butterflies in your classroom, whether it's a requirement of your district (like mine) or it's something you've always wanted to do, but didn't quite know how to prepare for it! 


  1. What a fun topic! Our school has butterflies in 3rd grade. The kids get so excited. Lately, they've had to take a field trip and drive to a nearby state (about 45 minutes) to release the butterflies because of restrictions in our state. I love the idea of the kids setting up the butterflies when they arrive! What a wonderful way to get them involved in the process. Also, the idea of putting a straw through the net is genius! Thanks for sharing!
    Teacher Treasure Hunter

  2. We used to do butterflies in second and third every year. I don't know when that changed, but the kids were always excited about watching the changes and finally releasing the butterflies in our school butterfly garden. I need to consider doing this again. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Burke's Special Kids

  3. We do butterflies in second also! Sadly, with Common Core, they are slowly being shifted to 3rd grade. I'm not sure what they will replace it with. Even though, we are still raising them this year!! I LOVE how you have the kids put them in their own containers with food!! The teachers have always done this and boy IS IT A PAIN!! It's the last thing we want to do before we leave at the end of the day. I'm going to give this a shot this year! Thanks for sharing :)


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