The butterfly unit in preschool

Last year, I had a parent give my class one of the best gifts ever. She gave us a butterfly kit. I hadn’t ever had one of these kits before and I was so worried that somehow I would mess it up along the way, but I followed the directions and my class and I were amazed with the process of watching a set of real caterpillars transform into butterflies…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

Because the process of changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly was going to take time, we visited the topic of caterpillars and butterflies on many different occasions so that we could draw our attention back to what was happening to our caterpillars along the way…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

The caterpillars start off in a small jar with food and after a week or so the caterpillars crawl to the top of the jar and form their chrysalis on a paper circle that is inside the lid at the top of the jar…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

While the caterpillars were forming their chrysalis, the children had to handle the jar very carefully and then I carefully removed the paper circle with the chrysalis attached and pinned the paper circle inside our butterfly house and we waited and watched some more…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

After about 7 to 10 days, our butterflies began to emerge from their chrysalis…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

The butterflies looked kind of dry and weak at first so we didn’t want to disturb them while they built their strength…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

Some of our parents stopped by to take a look too…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

Within a few days, the butterflies were strong and beautiful and fluttering around…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

And then came the day that we went outside to set out butterflies free…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

Two butterflies flew away as soon as we opened the top of the butterfly house but the others needed a little prodding…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

As you can see, this process went over several weeks so during that time I introduced different activities to go along with our study of the butterfly life cycle. We read different books along the way such as “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and “Waiting for Wings” by Lois Ehlert.

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

We also explored the life cycle from caterpillar to butterfly with these felt board pieces I made…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

I used the felt pieces to walk through the life cycle of caterpillar to butterfly with the children but also brought it the fun of fruits just like Eric Carle did in his book…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

At the end of our felt story, a butterfly came out of our felt story chrysalis too…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

I kept our felt butterfly life cycle pieces out for the children to draw their own life-cycles…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

We had all kinds of artwork, story telling, drawings, and discussions about the life cycle of a butterfly while we waited for our real butterflies to come. I even made the kids the cutest little caterpillar to butterfly snack wraps!

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

Such a fun study and all thanks to the wonderful gift a parent gave to our class!…

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

If you are looking for a butterfly kit of your own, check out Insect Lore.  Keep in mind that weather (extreme hot or cold weather) can affect the delivery of your caterpillars. So if you choose to do this project, build in lots of flexibility for ordering, delivery and time to let your caterpillars grow into butterflies! And when you receive your caterpillars, read the directions carefully! For those of you who have caterpillars that are native in your own environment, perhaps you can collect a few to watch them grow and change. Of course, you will need to read up on what kind of food to have available for them and anything else that might be important to know for this process.

The Butterfly Unit by Teach Preschool

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Comments

  1. JoAnna says

    I love love love your site. I am a blog subscriber so I get to read your words regularly and I appreciate all your ideas. It is awesome to find other early childhood educators who are committed to teaching in developmentally appropriate ways even in today’s high pressure high stakes climate. One of my favorite aspects of your classroom is the outdoor learning environment. Just awesome! I am wondering about your use of the word “cocoon” rather than chrysalis in this post. Did you want to align with Eric Carle’s use in his Very Hungry Caterpillar book? I am interested because I am always very particular about the vocabulary I use with my Pre-K students, and even in a read aloud that is clearly fiction, like the Eric Carle book, I always make sure I explain to students why he made that word choice, but also introduce that most often butterflies emerge from a chrysalis, while moths emerge from a cocoon. I am curious as to how other preschool teachers think about this. Thanks!! :)

    • says

      In the classroom, we used the word chrysalis. I love how you consider your words carefully as this is always a good teaching practice and something I am always having to think more about. I changed the post to the correct word too! Thank you for that reminder!

  2. Veronica says

    Deborah, good morning. I was reading your Butterfly unit and I just wanted to share my love for butterflys. I have always ordered through folklore. Then one day another teacher told me about the cayerpillars in a park. I went with my granddaughters and my husband and we collected them.I put them in a glass container with flowers. Eventually they built a chrysalis and then into butterflys. I did extensive research on the Monarchs and now I have them in my garden I purchased Milkweed plants and we have caterpillars just about all year round. I take the caterpillars to school for my preschoolers so they can see the entire process. We also take pictures with the children holding them or with the butterflys on their heads or noses. It takes practice with the holding and pictures. Sometimes the children are afraid. As for the words used I introduce cocoon and I sketch it then I say the sound of each letter and write it under the picture. I also tell the children in kindergarten the teachers will use another word called the chrysalis. I explain to them it is another word for cocoon. They like the sound of chrysalis and the word seems to stay with them more so then cocoon. I will can post some pictures if you like. Right now I have three chrysalis in a container and in a few days I will have butterflys

    • says

      Hi Veronica,
      I just love this sooooo much! I haven’t tried to collect my own caterpillars but we certainly have them all around here. I have always been afraid they wouldn’t live but you are inspiring me to at least give it a try. I would love to see photos if you get the chance!

      Deborah

  3. says

    How wonderful! I’m a former Montessori teacher who loves the hands on fundamentals of learning with a butterfly garden. I remember the first year we did this I also felt I was going to mess up the project, but things turned out perfectly and my students learned a lot during the entire course of the life cycle. Glad it worked out for y’all!

  4. says

    Such an exciting experience (and lesson)! And wonderful that the parents stopped by to get involved.
    I have a plastic life cycle, but seeing how interactive your felt one is makes me want to extend that invitation.