Hosting Monarch Butterflies

By Therese Fitzpatrick, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Fitzpatrick_Hosting Monarch Butterflies


Insects and life cycles are a large component of the first-grade science curriculum. Cause and Effect are a major focus in the first grade ELA curriculum. This lesson includes looking at the monarch butterfly, their life cycle, needs, migration and the concern among the scientific community for the recent decline in the population. The students design challenge will be, “How might we positively affect the monarchs?”

National Standards

CCSS RIT.1 Ask and answer questions about detail in a text. RIT.2 Identify and retell the main topic of the text. RIT.3 Describe connections between people, events, ideas and information. RIT.4 Clarify meaning of word/phrases by asking and answering questions. RIT.7 Use illustration to describe key ideas. W.1 Write opinion piece with the topic/into a sentence, detail sentences, and a closing sentence. W.2 Write explanatory topic with an intro, details, and closure. SL.1 Listen to others, take turns speaking, add to the conversation by responding to others dialog. SL.2 Ask and answer questions about details in presentation. SL.4 Express ideas/feeling in describing nouns/events SL.6 Speak in complete sentences. MD.4 Organize and explain data on a graph. Use date to the graph to answer questions. Compare data on a graph using more or less than.


Students will be able to identify the monarch butterflies’ life cycle. Students will be able to identify milkweed as a need for monarchs to survival. Students will be able to explain the connection to a lack of milkweed and the low numbers of monarch butterflies. Students will be able to state and explain that humans (our class) can change this the environment. Students will be able to record and graph monarch sightings in our courtyard garden and compare that number to the number or monarchs in our garden before milkweed was planted.


Passage with facts on the declining numbers of butterflies: (This is the passage used within in lesson two.)   -Art: -Butterfly word-search by Kathy Ryan on Kathy Ryan used images with the vocabulary words, which is helpful for young learners. ©KathyRyan2014h.p:///°©‐Ryan https://www.monarch- Books: Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids by Carol Pasternak Monarch Magic!: Butterfly Activities & Nature Discoveries by Lynn Rosenblatt     Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons


- small space on the school campus i.e.: planters or actual ground (area to redesign) - milkweed plants - milkweed seeds - caterpillar/s to observe the monarch life cycle, mesh enclosure or large glass case for the caterpillar to complete a life cycle in the classroom. - books with images and text on monarchs, see list above. - paper or ”science” notebooks for sketching designs. -books from classroom library, public library, and school library. -word search


Cause: Why something happens Effect: What happens Migrate: verb, move from one region or habitat to another when the seasons change. Life cycle: repeating life stages of an organism starting with birth and going to adulthood and back to birth. Monarch: The monarch butterfly is an orange and black milkweed butterfly Milkweed: a common plant that butterflies depend on to survive Persuade: convince someone to believe your thoughts or to act in a way you want. Design: creation, plan, convention to change for the better Prototype: one of many first attempts to make or improve on an idea or functional thing. Caterpillar: larva stage of butterfly or moth Pupa/chrysalis: the inactive immature stage of a butterfly or moth between a larva and an adult Butterfly: part of a class of insects with brightly colored wings, going through metamorphosis. Ecosystem: the community of living organisms and the non-living things in a certain space. Habitat: the area where an animal/s or human/s live where there is food, water, shelter and mates to sustain the species Sustainable: ecosystem that can endure Metamorphosis: complete change from birth to adult i.e. egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly.


Lesson one: Introducing Monarchs 30 minutes. In a whole group setting, use an anticipatory set: Bring in a caterpillar inside a suitable container to have students make observations and a KWL chart about what kind of caterpillar it is and how does is live? 20 minutes Read a simple book about Monarchs students take notes. 20 minutes   Lesson two: Defining the Problem 45 minutes. In small groups with the teacher, first grades will read a passage with facts about the monarch butterfly’s life cycle, the migration patterns, and the declining numbers of monarch butterflies. While reading, students will highlight important facts. After completing the passage, pairs of twos or threes will take their facts and write a piece with a topic sentence, at least, three detail sentences and one close sentence.   While small groups are with the teacher reading, other groups would be at the following stations.   1.Draw and record observations on classroom caterpillar in the room.
  1. Make a butterfly art project see resources below. (A parent assistant would be helpful.)
  1. Read classroom books on Butterflies or other insects or write a book on Monarchs with someone in the small group using facts from a book.
  1. Students may write a poem on butterflies or memorize one with a partner. Here are two examples. Make posters of examples to hang in the class for students to view.
    The tulip and the butterfly Appear in gayer coats than I: Let me be dressed fine as I will, Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still. by: Isaac Watts     The Caterpillar- by: Christina Rossetti Brown and furry Caterpillar in a hurry to the shady leaf, of stalk, or what not, Which may be the chosen spot   No toad to spy you, Hovering bird of prey pass by you; Spin and die, To live again A butterfly.  
  1. Have a butterfly word search as a “can do” if students finish at their stations before you switch teams. (See resources.)
    Lesson Three: Brainstorm and Prototyping 30 minutes In the same small groups from lesson 2, ask students to brainstorm, “How Might We Help the Monarchs that are migrating through our school neighborhood?” (New Orleans is in the path of Monarch Migration between California and Mexico.) How might we use the first-grade courtyard? Use talking chips with teams. Each student in a group has two plastic chips. Students spend a chip by sharing verbally their ideas. Students not spending a chip only listen. After everyone in a group has used one chip, students go around their circle again using their second chip. This second chip can be spent restating ideas or students can change their statement based on what they heard from the others in the first sharing, or maybe expand on what they said the first time.   Teams will then be given a cardboard piece and will be asked to use post-its with their team to make suggestions for a prototype map of the courtyard as a butterfly home.   Lesson four: test 30 minutes Student groups will present their post-it note mock maps/prototypes to another first-grade classrooms or another grade level. Perhaps the principal can be invited to this session. The audience will be asked to verbally respond or to provide feedback on paper. If the audience provides verbal feedback, students should record what is shared. Feedback should include ideas that were perceived as good “I like statements” and one “I wonder idea/thought”   Lesson five: evaluate 30-40 minutes With the notes/thoughts from our audience, students will make a second prototype with pipe cleaners, stickers, straws, tape, string, and colored paper or like building materials. Then the students will share ideas in our classroom. Presentations will be videotaped and placed on our classroom website. The taped presentations can be shared with lesson four’s test audience too.


Formative assessments will be used by teacher observation in the research and design phases and with discussion to ensure students are following the unit. Summative assessments will be taken from the letters that students write to their principal and the Commissioner at City Park. A rubric will be used to check Language mechanics and to check relevant facts used to persuade the recipients.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students will be encouraged to research for other butterflies that travel and live in the Louisiana area. i.e. Golf fritillary. After the lesson is complete students will be asked to reflect on, how might we continue this project and what other problems can we research to solve? Making a blog of the project would also serve as a connection to the public as in information piece but could also spur collaboration from outside the classroom.

Teacher Reflection

We have not completed the unit. Other ideas: This could be a project for any grade or city. There are many animals that we live with that are adversely affected by our lifestyles. Birds, for example, have to find food and shelter in cityscapes. Cornell University gives away bird watching kits with mini binoculars students are asked to be an observational scientist and to record the number of birds they see the university collects the data and shares it on their website. I have done some Project Based learning with Birds and Cornell’s resources. Perhaps birds could be used this with a design lesson. Bees are also making the news for the colony-collapsing syndrome.

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