Life Cycle of a Butterfly - Caring for our Caterpillars

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SWBAT prepare the food cup and observe the caterpillar.

Big Idea

All organisms on the Earth, grow and change. Understanding the importance of this cycle is monumental in understanding the cycle of life.

The Standard Connections

5 minutes

This lesson and the others connected to it are directly related to a Third Grade performance expectation.  However, they also have precursor work in the 2-LS4-1 performance expectation. Students must have experience in making observations of plants and animals in their environments to compare diversity within the ecosystems.  

This lesson incorporates both SP 1 and 2.  It offers the students an opportunity to make observations of the food supply for the caterpillars.  Making these observations will lead to asking questions about the smell and texture of the ground up mallow versus the way mallow appears in the wild. 


5 minutes

I have prepared a Life Cycle of a Butterfly Power Point that will walk the children through the stages of our investigation, slowly and carefully.  I prefer to use power point when I am teaching most of my lessons.  I find that when I do, it is helpful for all students who need that extra visual to make connections to the learning that we are experiencing.  It is great for ELL students and special needs students who may need further accommodations.  

Slide one is the title of the lesson for the day.

Slide two is a new element that has not been used up to this point in the teaching.  It shares with the students what the objectives for the lesson will be today.  I explain to the children that our eggs/caterpillars (depending on how they have arrived in the mail....I choose the correct word) have arrived and it is time to begin our work.  

"Well, entomologists, we are ready to put our scientific knowledge to work for us today.  We are going to begin our first real observation.  Our specimens came in the mail and I have been busy getting all the materials ready for you."  

This is exciting, the children have been anxiously awaiting this arrival since the last lesson.  

"Before we begin, we have a few things we really need to discuss and have some conversation about before we can begin." 

Slide three has text and pictures that gives the students background about the orange mallow we are going to put in the cups for the young specimens.  

I explain to the children that caterpillars eat this beautiful plant, but "because we just don't have many of these plants growing where we live, the science company has sent us this stuff.  It is actually mallow plants that they have taken and mashed up into this gushy stuff for us to use with our caterpillars." 

I explain more to the students, telling that we will be preparing the cups for them to live in with the mallow. This will provide food for them to eat while they are growing and we are observing them.  



15 minutes

Slide four explains how we are going to proceed and how important our actions will be to the survival of our caterpillars.  I remind the children how fragile this little creatures are and point out each of the points on the screen.  Again pictures are provided to reinforce concepts for ELL and special needs students.  

At this point, I bring each table team a small basket that has a cup with a caterpillar and mallow in it.  I have prepared the cups ahead of time so the children will not need to do this step.  Our time is precious in class and I prefer to have my students observing their caterpillars versus taking 20 minutes to set up the cups with the mallow.  

I also distribute jewelers loops to all my students.  I move to slide five and show them what they are able to do with this loop.  Some students may be familiar with the loop and it's functions.  But we review all the same.  I have also included pictures on the slide to demonstrate what focused and unfocused will appear to look like.  

"Boys and girls, before you begin to observe your caterpillar, take a moment to practice with your loop on your hand.  Look up here at the screen and look at the picture of focused and unfocused. If you look carefully, you will be able to see the difference between them.  When you are observing your own hand, try to get that loop to be completely focused.  When you have done that, you can gently pick up your caterpillar cup and begin to make your first observations." 

As the children get to this stage, many comments will begin to arise about the smell of the mallow. It is has a strong, pungent smell that smells a bit like honey.  Not the best smell to a second grader. This is the perfect opportunity to remind the students to remember to use all their senses, but not the sense of taste.  

I allow the children at least 10 minutes to observe the caterpillars. Depending on their stage and how far the are, they may be very active, or not so much. 


5 minutes

I ask the children if they are able to see the caterpillar really eating the mallow well?  The loops are great for enlarging and seeing things, but the detail is not always the greatest. 

Because of this, I want the children to see up close what it looks like for a caterpillar to eat a real mallow plant and not the mush mallow.  I show them this video.  

I explain that this is a much clearer view of how the caterpillar eats the mallow.  I show the video clip to the children twice.  Once to get the video and the "ooh" and "ahhh" factor out of the way, and a second time to discuss it. 

"What did you notice about how the caterpillar was eating?"

"How does his body move?" 

"Why do you believe he must eat so quickly?" 


10 minutes

Slides six and seven focus on good strong science words to describe the mallow.  I want the students to remember our lesson previously about making good observations.  The new element that I want to bring in with this observation sequence is the communication.  

"Boys and girls, when scientists make observations, they need to be sure they use good strong language to describe what they are seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching.  Scientists spend a good portion of their time sharing what they learn with other scientists.  But if they cannot communicate well, it will all be a waste of their time.  It is important that they choose their words carefully." 

I have the students take about two minutes to visit with their teammates and discuss all the words they can that describe the mallow.  When I ring the bell, table leaders stand and are ready to share out their teams choices in language.  

Because the main focus of the lesson is about the food supply for the caterpillars, I have a Mallow Tree Map for the students to work on.  I also make sure I have a large one created to use as a model to include their language.  I am not creating this model on the power point, because I want this language to remain up in the classroom and visible.  It is important with technology to know when it is important to utilize it and when it is important to include the children's authentic work in the moment. 

Slide nine asks some simple questions to help guide the children in their thinking to grab words that will describe the mallow.  


10 minutes

After the charts are complete, I give each child a small picture of mallow (slide ten) to glue into their journals in the Life Cycle of a Butterfly section.  

I instruct the children to think about all that we have done with the caterpillars and observing the mallow during this lesson.  I ask them to write a few sentences in their own words to describe what we did today and what they learned.  

I will go back and read these responses later to gather information about what the children learned in the lesson.  Any misconceptions I find, I will address before beginning the next lesson.