Caring for Butterflies

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This Earth Rangers Project Starter will get you and your class started on your next project. Our “build-your-class-project” tool will give you ideas — you take it from there! No matter where you are in Canada, we hope this sparks the creativity you have as an elementary school teacher and inspires you to engage your students in environmental learning.

Caring for Butterflies

Earth Rangers Connections: This project can help foster a sense of responsibility for animals in our environment and help children consider ways to make positive changes by first changing perspectives through education (e.g. milkweed is a weed to some but a lifeline for monarch butterflies). Working with these delicate yet resilient creatures on such a lengthy migration might also help children see the benefit of working together across borders to protect the habitat of endangered animals.

Curriculum Connections: How living things move to meet their needs; changes in the appearance and activity of an organism as it goes through its life cycle; making and recording observations using written language and pictures; recognizing the contribution of science in understanding the world; symmetry.

Start it up

1: Pick a Location to Attract Butterflies

2: Pick a Butterfly Stage (for Sightings)

Tip: Consider the milkweed growing season, monarch species distribution, and the timing of monarch migration in your region before starting this project.

  • Milkweed Sighting (important for monarch eggs or chrysalises)
  • Adult Sighting (wild)
  • Egg(s) Sighting (wild)
  • Larvae Sighting (wild)
  • Butterflies raised in the classroom, tagged and released (kits available online)
  • Other:

3: Pick a Citizen Science Effort

4: Pick Learning Outcome(s) for Assessment

  • Students are able to use observable features of butterflies to properly identify them.
  • Students are able to use observable features of milkweed to properly identify it.
  • Students are able to summarize how butterflies move to meet their needs through migration.
  • Students are able to describe the attributes of butterflies during different phases of a butterfly life cycle.
  • Students are able to record observations about the location of butterflies in their environment (e.g. as adults, egg, larvae or chrysalises).
  • Students are able to record observations about the location of butterfly-friendly plants in their environment (e.g. milkweed).
  • Students are able to justify the use of butterfly-friendly plants in a garden.
  • Students are able to plan ways to educate others about butterfly-friendly plants like milkweed.

Set it up

Adapted from Deaton & Nicholson (2016); Hayes et. al. (2020); Kracl & Harshbarger (2017) and Zydney & Schaen (2018).

Use this citizen science project to show students how they can contribute to the authentic work of real-live monitoring and conservation science. Guide them as they collect scientific data about butterflies and show them how data is submitted and compiled throughout North America.

5: Pick a Question(s)

  • Why do you think the class is looking for milkweed?
  • Do you think you and your classmates can really help scientists with their work? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think butterflies migrate?
  • Do you think that butterflies will keep migrating every year?
  • How do you think scientists keep track of animals when they migrate?
  • What more can we do to help protect butterfly habitat?
  • How do you know if something is an insect?
  • Using one word, tell me about a butterfly in the [adult, egg, larvae, chrysalis] stage ?
  • What did the butterfly feel like in your hand?
  • How can you fold a drawing of a butterfly to show a line of symmetry?
  • If you had the chance to talk to students who live in Mexico (where Monarchs migrate), what would you ask them?
  • What other animals do you think would like the same food as butterflies?
  • What do you think is the best way to teach others about butterfly-friendly plants like milkweed?

6: Pick An Assessment Tool

Use one of our handy Late Elementary Science Skills worksheets or create one of your own!

  • Pen-pal letters (from other regions of the world in the butterfly migration)
  • Photographs and visual observations
  • Data collection sheets
  • Checklists

Keep it up

7: Add Community

  • Visit a local museum (e.g. live butterfly exhibits and pavilions) to observe butterfly biodiversity
  • Invite a local scientist or garden centre to give advice on how to enhance school grounds to attract pollinators
  • Partner with another class or school (same grade or multi-grade)
  • Participate in Symbolic Migration with the USA and Mexico
  • Invite Indigenous artists to talk about symbolism of the native butterfly
  • Invite an elder to share a traditional Indigenous Story of the First Butterflies

9: Add an Earth Rangers Mission for Home


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Caring for ButterfliesLet us know how it went!