Butterfly Metamorphosis in the Classroom
activity exercisesuggested grade levels: 7- 8
view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

Help your students become familiar with the development of butterflies. Explain to students that although butterflies come in many different shapes and sizes, they all go through the same process of metamorphosis. This can be a fun activity for students because it gives them a real life example of metamorphosis. A real life example in the classroom should stimulate students very well. Teachers should discuss metamorphosis prior to this activity. Tell your students about the four different life stages that the butterflies go through including the egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult. See the Butterfly section if needed by clicking on Atlas Home, Biology, then on Butterflies.

1. Students will become familiar with the Digital Atlas of Idaho.
2. Students will observe metamorphosis.
3. Students will learn how to identify a species using a dichotomous key.

    1. During the springtime, catch a caterpillar and put it in a glass jar so it can easily be observed. Jar should be large so butterfly has room for wings to spread out and dry. Use small net and rubber band to seal the jar. If it is the wrong season for finding caterpillars you can order live specimens of Painted Lady caterpillars from BioQuip and other suppliers.

    2. Fresh leaves (the same type of leaves on the plant where the caterpillar was found) should be supplied daily. A stick should be placed in the jar that leans at an angle so the caterpillar has a place to form a pupa. If you are using Painted Lady caterpillars then most plant leaves will work because they are generalists that eat a variety of different plant species.

    3. Encourage your students to observe the caterpillar daily, but cause minimal disturbance. Students should be instructed not to touch or disturb the caterpillar.

    4. When the pupa forms, have students predict what the adult may look like. During this time it will be valuable to discuss how the caterpillar's body is completely reorganizing to form new shapes and structures.

    5. When the adult emerges, identify species using the Idaho Digital Atlas. To get there: Click on Atlas Home, Biology, Butterflies, then on Visual Key.Use the key to compare your butterfly to the choices given. Click on the side that matches the characteristics of your species. If you do this correctly, it should lead you to the correct species. Get basic information including ecology, distribution, and habitat of species of butterfly caught using the Idaho Digital Atlas.

    6. Release butterfly.

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
Butterflies | Visual Key

Related Lesson Topics:
Biology: Butterflies
Biology: Biology

Lesson plan by James Scannell and Stefan Sommer, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: