To determine which environmental characteristics make up a favorable butterfly habitat.
This lesson is the second of two lessons that focus on butterflies and their habitats.
In Butterfly 1: Observing the Life Cycle of a Butterfly, students observe one organism over time and compare its early development (caterpillar) to its later development (butterfly).
In Butterfly 2: A Butterfly's Home, students design their own butterfly gardens to demonstrate which environmental characteristics make up a favorable butterfly habitat. You have the option of planting a student-created "butterfly garden," which affords students an opportunity to interact with butterflies in their natural environment.
Students should explore how various organisms satisfy their needs in the environments in which they are typically found. They can examine the survival needs of different organisms and consider how the conditions in particular habitats can limit what kinds of living things can survive. Their studies of interactions among organisms within an environment should start with relationships they can directly observe.
Students should already know something about the life cycle of butterflies, and ideally, have observed butterfly behavior by raising butterflies in the classroom or by observing them in their natural settings.
Time: Approximately two hours.
Visit the suggested websites in the Development section of the lesson for guidance on planning and preparing a butterfly garden.
Read Where Butterflies Grow, by Joanne Ryder, aloud to the class. This book, illustrated by Lynne Cherry, describes what it feels like to change from a caterpillar into a butterfly and includes gardening tips to attract butterflies.
Based on this book, generate a class list describing the types of things that students feel would be needed in an environment that is good for butterflies.
In this part of the lesson, students learn about the environmental characteristics that make up a favorable habitat for a butterfly by designing and creating a butterfly garden.
Designing a Butterfly Garden
To begin, show students the first Why Garden for Wildlife? video from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Once you've viewed the video as a group, go over the Attracting Butterflies resrouce from NWF. (You can refer to the Inviting Butterflies to the Schoolyard Garden page, part of the National Gardening Association's Kidsgardening.com site, for background information and to help stimulate discussion.)
- What are the four basic elements of wildlife habitat?
(They are food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.)
- What do butterflies eat?
(They eat nectar from flowers.)
- Where do they rest?
(They like to rest in the sun.)
- Where do they get water?
(They usually get water from puddles.)
- Do we know what types of butterflies are found in our area? If not, where can we find out?
(Answers will vary.)
- What types of things, other than just plants, should be in a butterfly garden?
(These things include what students learned about in the video: food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.)
To help students find out what types of butterflies are found in your region and the types of plants that would be good to have in a butterfly garden, you can consult the Butterfly Gardens & Habitats site. This sites offers downloadable fact sheets and plant lists for butterfly gardening in 40 specific regions.
Now, using magazines and printed computer images and collage objects, students can create a 3-D collage of the types of plants and other materials that should be in a butterfly garden. When they have finished creating their gardens, reflect on each of the gardens by asking the students:
- Why is this a good place for a butterfly?
- Can you think of something that we would not want to add to the garden? Why?
- Would it be good for other insects or animals? Fish? Birds? Lady Bugs? Grasshoppers?
- Does your garden resemble the garden in Where Butterflies Grow? In what ways?
At this point, students can take a few minutes to make any changes they wish to their butterfly gardens based on what they have learned when sharing.
Creating a Butterfly Garden
In order to see butterflies in their natural habitat, your students can plan a butterfly garden. Inviting Butterflies to the Schoolyard Garden provides useful resources and instructions for creating such a garden. This website points out several important things for students to keep in mind as they plan a garden:
- Include "host plants" for the eggs
- Choose appropriate plants
- Be sure to include plants that bloom at different times of the year
- Make sure there's a lot of color
- Water is necessary for life
Be sure that as the garden grows, students are observing the development of the butterflies as well. They should record their observations on a daily basis. Provide them with several copies of the Observing a Butterfly student sheet to help them record their observations over a number of days. As a whole group, revisit the list generated in the Motivation activity, in which students described the appropriate environment for butterflies. Ask them if they would make any changes based on what they learned.
To assess student understanding, provide them with A Butterfly's Home student sheet. They should draw a picture of an "ideal" butterfly environment. Students should label the things in their drawing that help the butterfly survive and thrive. Then students should draw a picture of a butterfly and draw and label the parts of a butterfly that help it survive in that environment.
Participate in Schoolyard Habitats, a project from the National Wildlife Federation, where "Your school campus can provide unique, hands-on, outdoor learning opportunities by turning it into a habitat-based learning site." This activity will instruct you on how to create a habitat team to inventory, survey, and map your school's grounds.
Create a Venn Diagram comparing what is necessary in a butterfly's environment to what is necessary in a person's environment. Discuss what is needed by both. What does a butterfly need that a person does not need? What does a person need that a butterfly does not need?