Building a Butterfly Garden
A project that allows children to observe butterflies in their natural habitat
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Plant a garden to create a butterfly habitat that will allow students to observe butterfly life cycles.
Duration: The actual planting of the garden will vary depending on its size. Once the garden is established, you will need to allow time for students to observe and record their butterfly observations. This is a project that can be done year-round.
- To make the project more manageable, try taking small groups out to garden.
- To help the garden thrive during the summer, enlist the help of parent volunteers to water it and weed it during summer months. You might decide to pick one day a week for families to meet and take care of it. For example, make Tuesdays from 6 pm to 7 pm gardening time.
- All families would be welcome to stop by, visit and help maintain the garden.
Students will gain a working knowledge of gardening as they prepare the soil, plant and maintain the butterfly garden.
Students will gain an understanding of the changes that butterflies and plants go through. (Because this lesson can lead to a wealth of objectives, you may decide to concentrate on plants as an extension.)
1. Students will identify the parts of a butterfly.
2. Students will recognize and identify the different stages of the life cycle of the butterfly.
3. Students will plant in the garden.
Recognize changes in appearance that animals and plants go through as the seasons change --Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework
Identify the ways in which an organism’s habitat provides for its basic needs (plants require air, water, nutrients, and light; animals require food, water, air, and shelter) --Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework
Recognize that plants and animals have life cycles, and that life cycles vary for different living things --Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework
- Hose or Watering Can
Plants to Attract Butterflies (While the following plants do attract butterflies, they may not be hardy in your planting zone. Research the type of butterflies and plants that are native to your area.)
- Bee Balm
- Queen Anne’s Lace
- Mexican Sunflowers
- Butterfly Bush
- Black-eyed Susan
- Corn Flower
Plants to Feed Caterpillars
Set Up and Prepare
- Research the type of butterflies and plants that are native to your area.
- Find an area on school grounds to plant and clear the project with your principal.
- Schedule date(s) for planting and lineup staff or volunteers.
- Gather tools and plants for gardening.
Step 1: Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Step 2: Have a class discussion about the foods the caterpillar eats. Follow up with a student-generated list of plants/flowers that might be attractive to real caterpillars and butterflies.
Step 3: Show students the plants gathered for the garden and explain that they will be planting a butterfly garden.
Step 4: Plant the garden.
Step 5: Over the school year, give students time to tend the garden and record their observations about caterpillars and butterflies.
Supporting All Learners
Students can work in pairs or small groups when planting. Staff and volunteers will also be on hand to lead students through the lesson, demonstrating how to dig a hole, unpot plants and gently tamp down soil around the plant.
- Participate in Biodiversity Days to learn more about native animals and plants.
- Grow plants from seed to send home to start student butterfly gardens.
- Rewrite The Very Hungry Caterpillar to include plants from your garden.
- Raise a caterpillar in the classroom and observe him as he goes through a metamorphosis.
Invite parents to participate in the planting of the garden. For those who can't attend, send home a newsletter, complete with photographs and drawings of the event.
- Are students able to identify the parts of a butterfly?
- Can students recognize and identify the different stages of the lifecycle of the butterfly?
- Do students have a working knowledge of how to plant?
- Have students draw the life cycle of a butterfly or the parts of a butterfly.
- Students can also be assessed during conversations centering on both of these topics.