Butterflies: Fly into Science

Engage young learners with these great interdisciplinary lesson ideas for teaching about butterflies!

By Christen Amico


monarch butterfly sitting on a pink flower

As the weather warms up and flowers start to blossom, teachers and parents may find themselves rushing to complete this year’s curriculum in order to get ready for the testing season. When spring fever hits your kids, and keeping them sitting still becomes a chore, head outdoors to learn. Here are some great butterfly teaching ideas that are fun, hands-on, and great for reviewing multiple academic subject areas in the same lesson.

How Does a Butterfly Grow?

The best place to start is, of course, at the beginning. Great children’s books, like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, perfectly illustrate the metamorphic changes that butterflies go through before they truly become a butterfly. Be careful though, Eric Carle uses the word cocoon, when actually a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis and moths emerge from cocoons. Have children cut and paste the parts of the life cycle in order and practice retelling the story as a way to reinforce important sequencing skills. This is also a great time to review specific academic science vocabulary, such as larvae, pupa, chrysalis, metamorphosis, and habitat.


Here are some quick activities that can also be used to teach about the butterfly life cycle:

  • Write/draw in a daily diary to track the changes observed using a butterfly cage.
  • Use raw pasta to illustrate the life cycle as well (penne for the caterpillar, shells for the chrysalis, bow tie for the butterfly).
  • Compare and contrast the life of a caterpillar to that of a butterfly. Ask children which one they would rather be and why.
  • Teach time order and transition words such as: first, next, then, afterwards, finally. This is very important in formal writing as well as oral language development.

What Else Can We Do with a Butterfly?

By using a connecting theme such as butterflies, teachers and parents can integrate a wide variety of learning objectives into this theme. Use what interests your pupils to get them engaged in other less-engaging subject areas. A simple butterfly template can turn any regular lesson plan into something much greater! Use some of these mini-lesson ideas to integrate a butterfly theme into seemingly regular, and sometimes boring, topics.

  • Die-cut small butterflies and write each part of a compound word on each half of the butterfly.
  • Cut out a large butterfly and write a fact family on it. Two addition facts on one side, and the corresponding subtraction facts on the other. This can be done with multiplication and division as well.
  • Draw or glue a picture of one-half a butterfly, and have students draw the matching half to learn about symmetry. This works best on graph paper.
  • Butterfly acrostic poem.
  • How many words can you make using the letters B-U-T-T-E-R-F-L-Y or C-A-T-E-R-P-I-L-L-A-R?
  • Make a contraction caterpillar: each round body part has a contraction on it and put two small feet under that to hold each small word that comprises the contraction.
  • Use an egg carton to paint and decorate to create your own caterpillar.
  • Trace a large butterfly on black paper. Cut out holes in the wings and glue pretty colored tissue paper on the back. Hang it up in a window to make it look like stained glass.

Just like the life cycle of a butterfly, the learning possibilities here are endless. Although using butterflies as a unit of study is quite common amongst early childhood educators, upper-grade teachers and parents can also take advantage of its unique and high-interest qualities. Here are some great printable activities to help you soar in the season!

A Variety of Ways to Incorporate Butterflies into Your Curriculum

Butterfly Addition

Kindergarten and first graders will enjoy this basic addition worksheet. After solving the problems, they use the code at the bottom to color the butterflies correctly!

Life Cycle of a Butterfly Vocabulary

This is a great introductory worksheet for teaching the names of each part of the butterfly life cycle. It is simple and in color for added engagement! This would work for any grade level.

Life Cycle Read and Illustrate

In this printable, scientists must read and comprehend each stage and then draw a picture to match. This could be modified for special needs or younger students by allowing them to cut and paste pictures in the spaces rather than draw from memory.

Symmetry of a Butterfly

Here is a simple lesson plan to teach about symmetry using a hand drawn butterfly. This includes a template.

Write and Color

Early writers can use this basic (and customizable) worksheet to color and print the word butterfly. This is great for pre-k and kindergarten. 

Butterfly Poem

This is a nice, basic template for creating a butterfly acrostic poem.

Butterfly Mini-Book

This is a great printable book that kids can read, color and take home to reinforce reading comprehension skills. It prints two pages on one sheet and is black and white.